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Ridiculous Government Travel  
User currently offlineJkj777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 398 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 1674 times:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071002/...o_ca_st_pe/government_travel_waste

It is amazing how much $$ us U.S. taxpayers pay for our elected and appointed officials to travel. After reading this article, I realized how wasteful the govt. really is. We cannot get $$ for health care costs but we can give our money to Joe Schmoe in the Department of Tiddly Winks to travel First Class to Germany to have a tiddly wink meeting and play some golf. Government travel is necessary but come on, this is just out of hand. I hope that these folks have to forfeit part of their salary in order to reimburse us taxpayers or they just have to pay a huge fine equal to their "crime" (I know this is unethical more so than illegal, but you all know what I am saying).

What do you all think?
Public Humiliation?
Banned from flying for 5 years?
Fly Southwest Domestically and US overseas (sorry for you SWA and US lovers out there, this was just a joke)?
Take Greyhound domestically?
Swim across the ocean?

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1467 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1617 times:

Quoting Jkj777 (Thread starter):
What do you all think?
Public Humiliation?
Banned from flying for 5 years?
Fly Southwest Domestically and US overseas (sorry for you SWA and US lovers out there, this was just a joke)?
Take Greyhound domestically?
Swim across the ocean?

Fly SkyBus and pay out of pocket. Seriously our travel clerk gets all pissy when you pick a airfare for a few dollars more and most the seats I get are in back of the plane. The cool thing was the UA ticket agent moved me to a exit row seat RNO-SAN-RNO it didn't cost any more than my previous booked seat.

God forbid we attempt to fly 1st...But it happens with civil service workers in much higher positions. They're the ones that ruin it for the rest of us.

Me personally I'd rather keep my job and follow the rules then burn later.

I remember one time a agent asked me if I want to upgrade to 1st RNO-SFO for $60.00 I respectfully declined. Sure I would have payed out of my pocket however knowing rules of goverment travel I didn't want to attract unneccesary attention after I filed my travel claim. Secondly a 40 min flight on F class to SFO in a CRJ-900 wasn't worth it.

[Edited 2007-10-03 03:07:57]

User currently offlineAAFan From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 50 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Behavior like this is simply obscene in a time where corporations are cutting back on travel expenses or eliminating travel all together in order to stay afloat. If it's good for private businesses, it should be good for public employees.

User currently offlineGh123 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

I don't have so much of a problem with this. If you want the best peolpe in your 'public sector' then you've got to look after them. Or else they will just go and work in the private sector where they will probably get paid more and also get the perks anyway.

Of course there is a limit and I would say that Business Class would be it for longhaul flights.


User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7784 posts, RR: 16
Reply 4, posted (7 years 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Gh123 (Reply 3):
I don't have so much of a problem with this. If you want the best peolpe in your 'public sector' then you've got to look after them. Or else they will just go and work in the private sector where they will probably get paid more and also get the perks anyway.

Of course there is a limit and I would say that Business Class would be it for longhaul flights.

that is all fine and dandy, but these folks (career people and appointees alike) are booking air travel in violation of travel guidelines. I don't think it is terribly hard to justify the purchase of a business class ticket for TATL flight for a high level person to attend a meeting. But if the rules don't allow it, then the rules don't allow it. Plain and simple.



Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineAirbear From Australia, joined May 2001, 648 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Welcome to our world! Things are no different here in Australia, even to the extent that "kinda-sorta-LCC" carrier Virgin Blue withdrew from the SYD-CBR route a few years ago because they were unable to attract any/much public service traffic. These worthy folks, found it impossible to tear themselves away from QF, offering a mostly all-Y service on Dash 8's (with the odd 2-class 737 thrown in occasionally), access to the QF Club and FFP's & oneworld status credits, and oh yes... free water or soft drinks plus crackers & dips, all for a lousy 35 min. flt., despite DJ offering better fares. And yes, I know... they are having another go at it with their new E-Jets. I wish 'em luck!

I don't know what the practical solution to all this is? Perhaps you create guidelines that say a) domestic travel ( U.S. or Australia doesn't matter) is Y class only. End of story ! b) International travel under 8 hrs. flying time, Y-class. (So that means shorter the trans-atlantics in the U.S. or , say, SYD/SIN in the Australian context. If most of the rest of us taxpayers can put up with that, then so can our pen-pushers! c) Intern'l travel over 8 hours, Business class. d) International First class ... absolutely forbidden under any circumstances! If you are REALLY important enough to justify travelling 1st class, then you may as well have access to Air Force VIP a/c, which would likely be cheaper for the taxpayers, and with higher security.

GRRR!!!!

Oh yes BTW...hi Gh123. What makes you think that the "better" people are not already in the private sector, anyway?


User currently offlinePtugarin From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 326 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Jkj777 (Thread starter):
fter reading this article, I realized how wasteful the govt. really is.

I am surprised it took you so long to realize this. I was never under impression that politicians are humble servants of their people.


User currently offlineJFK787NYC From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 812 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Wow you guys are nuts.

Ok, their was no word that it was First Class. Its upper class flying, On TV they show Business Class. You guys must remember the government does not book their Business Class tickets six months in advance. So their flights cost roundtrip in the range of $8'000.

Now, they WORK, they Have a high ranking position in the United States Government do you honestly believe they should be traveling for WORK as a diplomat of the United States in COACH? When they arrive in Germany they are escorted off the plane by private security.

NO ONE IS CUTTING BUSINESS CLASS TRAVEL FOR HIGH RANKING EMPLOYEES. AND THEIR IS NO COMPANY AT Macedonian Airlines (Greece)">IN THE UNITED STATES THAT IS DECIDING NOT TO TRAVEL AT ALL.

ALL OF OUR COMPAINES AT Macedonian Airlines (Greece)">IN THE UNITED STATES ARE MAKING MONEY ABROAD NOT HERE.

They should be flying business class!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


User currently offlineSh0rtybr0wn From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 528 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Statistic:

US national debt in 2000 = Less than 5 Trillion

Now, in 2007, National Debt = 10 Trillion

These egregious government travel expenses are a disgrace, but other much bigger wastes of money come to mind over that short period of time than airfare.


User currently offlineVarig md-11 From France, joined Jul 2000, 1603 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting JFK787NYC (Reply 7):
Ok, their was no word that it was First Class. Its upper class flying, On TV they show Business Class. You guys must remember the government does not book their Business Class tickets six months in advance. So their flights cost roundtrip in the range of $8'000.

Now, they WORK, they Have a high ranking position in the United States Government do you honestly believe they should be traveling for WORK as a diplomat of the United States in COACH? When they arrive in Germany they are escorted off the plane by private security.

I am with you on this one
with one restriction: sometimes the administrations could book much earlier but take all their bloody time to make the actual booking; that could save tons of euros already by booking in time (I am an EU official so I should know...)

for the gvt officicials caught red handed "exagerating"a bit, I think public humiliation and swimming in Lake Erie in january would be fair  Wink

Quoting Sh0rtybr0wn (Reply 8):
US national debt in 2000 = Less than 5 Trillion

Now, in 2007, National Debt = 10 Trillion

These egregious government travel expenses are a disgrace, but other much bigger wastes of money come to mind over that short period of time than airfare.

let's not open pandora's box but I believe so too: civil servants are the easy targets



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User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 10, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Varig md-11 (Reply 9):
sometimes the administrations could book much earlier but take all their bloody time to make the actual booking

Most US government travel is at set rates on set routes. Booking six months early or the day before the flight does not impact the ticket cost as significantly as the normal traveler.

Airlines bid to supply X number of seats per day/ week/ month on certain routes. Contracts are awarded for those routes at set prices.

Now sometimes the contract seats are all sold / taken - so regular fare rules apply with some modifications.

Sometimes the government travel does not fill the contracted seats, and if the airline is unable to fill those seats - the government may have to pay for empty seats.

The report in the OP also says the Pentagon has done an excellent job of controlling travel costs - but the State Department is the current worst offender.

The State Department does have the most travel on non-contract routes and much of their travel has to be on non-US flag carriers who will not bid upon/ comply with US government purchasing regulations.

Now - let me tell you a dirty little secret about the US government. They will come back and take your pay, your income tax refunds, your social security if they find you booked higher cost travel without authorization. They will come back and take that money years later. There is no statue of limitations on 'fradulent' travel claims.

Quote:
three had duplicate tickets and no evidence that the duplicates were refunded;

Those people will have to provide proof of the refunds ASAP.

Quote:
Nine Justice Department employees charged the agency $35,000 for premium-class air tickets to Frankfurt, Germany, claiming the flight time was over 14 hours. Investigators found the employees added a separate flight to their calculations to reach the 14-hour total, a practice not allowed under government travel rules. Also, two of the flights were not authorized.

These people will be paying the money back.


User currently offlineADXMatt From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 952 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Airbear (Reply 5):
I don't know what the practical solution to all this is? Perhaps you create guidelines that say a) domestic travel ( U.S. or Australia doesn't matter) is Y class only. End of story ! b) International travel under 8 hrs. flying time, Y-class. (So that means shorter the trans-atlantics in the U.S. or , say, SYD/SIN in the Australian context. If most of the rest of us taxpayers can put up with that, then so can our pen-pushers! c) Intern'l travel over 8 hours, Business class. d) International First class ... absolutely forbidden under any circumstances! If you are REALLY important enough to justify travelling 1st class, then you may as well have access to Air Force VIP a/c, which would likely be cheaper for the taxpayers, and with higher security.

They do have a policy now.... under 14 hours Y class over 14 Hours C/J class

Now I am sure that there are those who may abuse it; but what about the guy in Washington at the State Dept. who works all day at his desk, gets the evening flight IAD-LHR and goes to a meeting when he gets there? The flight is less then 14 hours. Would you want him going into the meeting with little to no sleep in a center seat coach center section? No arrival lounge for a shower and getting suit pressed etc. Granted he could leave the day prior but then you lose productivity and more expense for hotel, meals etc. Maybe a meeting in DC would need to be postponed causing a domino affect over a few thousand dollars? Sometime saving a penny costs you a dollar. Is that taken into account with these figures?

Travel policies should be "guidlines" and should be approved by your boss and NOT a subordinate.


User currently offlineVarig md-11 From France, joined Jul 2000, 1603 posts, RR: 8
Reply 12, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 10):
Most US government travel is at set rates on set routes. Booking six months early or the day before the flight does not impact the ticket cost as significantly as the normal traveler.

thx for the info
this is then a huge difference with EU admin, as far as I know this is not existing over here, at least not in the agency I work with
very often I harrass our travel dpt about securing a ticket at a reasonnable price and they wait till the last moment so that they pay 500 euros where they could have paid 250....then comes the complaint that travel budget is empty
on some occasions I book LCC myself and ask for a refund when I see the mess travel dpt is doing
the rule is you can do that only if you find cheaper rate than travel dpt....well it's not difficult!!!!!!!



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User currently offlineModernArt From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting JFK787NYC (Reply 7):
Now, they WORK, they Have a high ranking position in the United States Government do you honestly believe they should be traveling for WORK as a diplomat of the United States in COACH?

They should be following the rules set down - no matter their rank or status. If it means coach, it means coach.


User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4064 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1462 times:
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First off, I think I need to add one huge caveat that the article is missing. $146 millions in abusive travel is actually 1% of total government travel expenditures ($14.1 billions in 2005 for civilian and military - the last available complete figure) and it's also less than one day in Iraq incidentally. With that in mind, even though I work in an industry striving for 6-9s performance, I don't find these abusive spending to be so outrageous.

Second, compared to how my employer's corporate travel program works (more on that below), I wonder how such flagrant breach of the rules is actually possible. Does each agency get to make their own booking without any mechanism to force adherence to the guidelines at the time of reservation ?

Finally, with a travel budget of $14.1 billions, I actually don't understand why the government doesn't have travel contracts that include such perks as frequent automatic upgrades. My father used to work for a DC organization with a travel budget below $100 millions that still included a lot of perks, one of the favorites was, many years ago, a space-available Concorde upgrade to London at the time of booking a business-class seat on BA.

At the company I work for, most corporate travel bookings are made through our own web site where standard rules are automatically enforced and cannot be bypassed. These rules themselves have exceptions, but they do require booking through a live human body to document the exception. If someone wants an exception that isn't included in the standard "exceptions to the rules," depending on their status they need their boss' authorization or they can authorize themselves, but in that case they are financially responsible for the additional cost should their exception be judged later to be abusive.

All bookings are handled by a corporate travel management company, and the contract is awarded and overseen by someone high enough in our company that rules of travel do not apply to him (he can fly first class to cross the street if he chooses to), so employees like me have no leverage on our corporate travel managers to grant us "favors" but we do benefit from many contractual perks offered by the carriers with whom we have a travel contract (a European airline I'm not allowed to name even bumps every flying employee up one tier in their frequent flyer program just for the asking).

Quoting ADXMatt (Reply 11):
Travel policies should be "guidlines" and should be approved by your boss and NOT a subordinate.

No, travel guidelines should be extensive enough to cover scenarios such as the one you describe that do occur frequently so that the traveler does not have to depend on the quality of their relationship with their superior. If your scenario is not part of a company travel policy, but one boss allows frequent exemptions for night flying to morning meeting while another does not, who do you think will come off looking worse the next time the use of travel fund is being audited ?

[Edited 2007-10-04 09:09:08]


I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineEnviroian From United States of America, joined Oct 2007, 15 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

I too think it's absurd. Why should politicians be held to a different standard? This is a clearly a violation of travel guidelines. If these yahoo's were in the private sector/corporate world, they would be suject to termination.

User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 16, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 14):
I wonder how such flagrant breach of the rules is actually possible. Does each agency get to make their own booking without any mechanism to force adherence to the guidelines at the time of reservation ?

To a large extent - yes - each agency does it's own booking, has it's own rules. Contracts tend to be in a few set forms - GSA contracts for major domestic routes, DOD contracts for specific overseas routes and individual agency contracts for a few high use routes that only that agency uses.

The size of the government is the main issue in trying a consolidated approach. Bringing everything for requirements for the next year together in a timely manner is impossible. Then you have changes which occur and require extensive travel on short notice.

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 14):
All bookings are handled by a corporate travel management company, and the contract is awarded and overseen by someone high enough in our company that rules of travel do not apply to him

You can see what an impact a 14 billion dollar contract would have on the travel management industry if it all went to one company. You can also see how moving the contract to a new company would be a political issue because thousands of jobs would be lost and thousands of people in the new company would have to be hired and trained very quickly.

Another point is that if the travel management company decided any single US airline could not be used - it could easily lead to an airline's failure/ closure.

When you get into contracts worth billions of dollars the political pressure is overwhelming. Not from the legislative representatives and the political government employees - but from mayors, airline employees, airline management, hotel companies, rental car companies, etc....

All political pressure is driven from the local employee level - they want their government to spend it's money buying their company services/ goods.

You are right to point out the scope of the issue. The base report gives the US government a very satisfactory grade on improving it's oversight of travel. It just points out the deficiencies in a few areas - which reporters love to portray incorrectly as system wide issues.


User currently offlineFlighty From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 8630 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

I know some very high up civil service members (think who run 10,000s of staff members) and they would never fly First class domestic. They fly coach (and get upgrades to First because they are vvff, which is at government expense, but what are they supposed to do... refuse upgrades?)

International, the rules are different. A lot of very young employees of many orgs (who make low salaries) fly in J class as a matter of policy.


User currently offlineFlighty From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 8630 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

And just for perspective, the US government is probably the #1 customer of every airline in the USA. Certainly the top 6. The govt is a major, major airline user no matter what.

User currently offlineEXAAUADL From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Sh0rtybr0wn (Reply 8):
US national debt in 2000 = Less than 5 Trillion

Where idd you get that stat..I thought it was over 6 trillion in 2000...adding 5 trillin in 7 years averages $714b per year. In no year did the US have a budget deficit that big...2001 was still a modest surplus, while 2003-04 was like close to $500b...now it is down to around $200b.


User currently offlineFlynavy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Jkj777 (Thread starter):
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071002/...o_ca_st_pe/government_travel_waste

I am not surprised at all. You actually expected your government to follow even the simplest of rules - in this case those governing travel? HA!


User currently offlineItsnotfinals From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Flighty (Reply 19):
And just for perspective, the US government is probably the #1 customer of every airline in the USA. Certainly the top 6. The govt is a major, major airline user no matter what.

and lets' not forget how much the airlines make under the CRAF program either!

http://www.dot.gov/ost/oet/craf/CFLR1004.pdf

I am sure there are more planes in the program now.


User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6480 posts, RR: 54
Reply 22, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

I just wonder how this can be so complicated. Don't they have computers over there in the US of A?

The rules in my company are much the same, only we fly C class on intercontinental regardless of duration.

When I travel, then I key in my travel needs including needs of flexibility on an internal web site. The travel agency responds with an e-ticket. The system knows my business credit card number, I never have to worry about a cent, and it will always be rules compliant.

My team leader automatically receives an email with a link on which he approves my expense.

Should I fail to meet the schedule, then I call the travel agency 7x24 and have the needed changes made. They send new e-ticket(s). If refunds are possible, then they take care of that, I don't need to spend one second to worry about that.

And we are a company of only 110,000 workers of which less than half are frequent travelers.

It's nothing special which we have produced. It's an ordinary service from large, global travel agencies which you just subscribe to.

And BTW, the price difference between C and Y often isn't all that great. Large companies with many frequent travelers often negotiate contracts with legacy carriers which give them 50+% rebate on C class tickets.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
User currently offlineCobra27 From Slovenia, joined May 2001, 1017 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Some people just don't care, they think their asses don't smell.

User currently offlineMike89406 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1467 posts, RR: 3
Reply 24, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Prebennorholm (Reply 23):
I just wonder how this can be so complicated. Don't they have computers over there in the US of A?

It used to be booked by SATO Travel which was all the travel controlled by a government travel agent you didn't worry about any of it it was all done for you. But now individuals book they're own travel through the Commercial Travel Office or Defense Travel System. The booked reservations (Plane ticket, Rental car, Hotel/lodging/Per Diem) gets pre-auditied by a Financial Officer that goes in to the program once it meets criteria then its signed off on by their digital signature etc...

Anyways thats for DOD at least. I have used DTS several times in the last year for work travel and I'll tell you it's very strict and requires a validation check on the criteria like Y class, compact rental car, etc..It's cool when cause you can book you're own travel when it fits you best timewise, I'm over 6 feet so I also qaulify for the next size up rental car.

I don't know if thats how they do it in other government organizations.


User currently offlineV1valarob From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 67 posts, RR: 0
Reply 25, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1462 times:

Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 25):
Anyways thats for DOD at least. I have used DTS several times in the last year for work travel and I'll tell you it's very strict and requires a validation check on the criteria like Y class, compact rental car, etc..It's cool when cause you can book you're own travel when it fits you best timewise, I'm over 6 feet so I also qaulify for the next size up rental car.

I don't know if thats how they do it in other government organizations.

The USAF is switching to DTS from FAST. The program is REALLY picky about your expenses. It was amazing how we would have engineers come to us asking how to use a simple program like DTS.


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