FY 2015 Report on Conferences Sponsored by HHS Staff Divisions

January 31, 2016

Topics in this report: About the Department | About the Report/Background | Description of the Report | Fiscal Year 2015 Summary I Secretary's Approval of Exceptional Circumstances  

About the Department:

As the principal Department responsible for protecting the public health and providing essential human services to the American people, effective outreach to our partners, grantees and to the general public is central to the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Our success is contingent on our ability to collaborate with the tens of thousands of health care and human services providers, scientific researchers, clinicians, advocates, and other key non-government partners across the country and internationally.  Our support and attendance at scientific conferences and other related meetings is critical for the work of our researchers to leverage and advance the biomedical and scientific mission of their respective agencies.

About the Report/Summary Background

This report addresses HHS Staff Divisions (StaffDivs) within the Office of the Secretary and is submitted as required by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum on Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations (OMB M-12-12), dated May 11, 2012, which requires Federal agencies to report publicly on agency-sponsored conferences where the expenses are in excess of $100,000.  

It is noted here that HHS Operating Divisions (OpDivs) are responsible for preparing their own individual reports on conference expenses as provided for in Section 527 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015. For convenience, copies of the OpDiv reports will be available on this site shortly.

Summary Background

Since the issuance of OMB M 12-12, HHS continued to take positive steps to gain efficiencies in the use of Appropriated Funds for conferences and meetings while ensuring that it remains in full compliance with OMB M-12-12 and all related legal requirements. Building off cross-agency workgroups first put in place in 2012, HHS regularly assesses the enhancement or development of tools and processes for planning and hosting conferences.

The HHS Conference Procurement and Planning Toolkit is a compendium of best practices for planning a conference and for securing contractor services, meeting space, and other logistical support aspects of a conference.

In 2015 the Department launched an enhanced version of its Conference Tracking Application (CTA 2.0) which was first introduced in 2013 (CTA 1.0) to effectively manage the approval and reporting processes and to allow costs for a single conference to be aggregated Department-wide. CTA 2.0 provides a more efficient means of managing the conference pre-approval and reporting processes. Enhanced workflow systems now permit agencies to process requests to attend conferences hosted by other organizations as well as those HHS hosts. Along with new reporting features, CTA delivers a robust on-line system to meet both the approval and reporting requirements of OMB M-12-12.

HHS also refreshed its policies in 2015 reminding agencies of their responsibility to ensure a thorough cost review and comparison in the early stages of the acquisition lifecycle to inform decisions around the best contract method to support conferences and meetings. The Department also continues to work with OMB and Congress to provide technical assistance in understanding the HHS mission and how it conducts business assuring its compliance with OMB M-12-12.

Description of the Report:

In compliance with OMB Memorandum M-12-12, this report includes:

  • Information about the net conference expenses for FY 2015, as well as general information about conference activities throughout the year.
  • A description of all conferences sponsored by HHS Staff Divisions (StaffDivs) under the Office of the Secretary for FY 2015 where the net expenses associated with the conference were in excess of $100,000, along with:
    • the total conference expenses incurred by the STAFFDIV for the conference;
    • the location of the conference;
    • the date of the conference;
    • a brief explanation on how the conference advanced the mission of the StaffDiv; and
    • the total number of individuals whose travel or other conference expenses were paid by the StaffDiv.

Fiscal Year 2015 Summary:

The following summarizes information about HHS StaffDiv sponsored conferences in FY 2015 that exceeded $100,000:

  • Total number of conferences: 5
  • Total cost of the conferences: $819,628
  • Total number of attendees: 2,112
  • Average cost per attendee: $388
  • Percent of conferences held near agency: 80%
  • Percent of attendees traveling at HHS expense: 23%

By comparison, in FY 2014 StaffDivs sponsored 4 conferences at a total cost of $1,305,415. A year over year comparison of expenses shows StaffDivs held 5 conferences in FY 2015 with overall expenses reduced by 37% ($819,628 vs. $1,305,415) and the average cost per attendee by 18% ($388 vs. $474)

Secretary’s Approval of Exceptional Circumstances

OMB Memorandum M-12-12 established a $500,000 threshold on conference spending, which allowed for a waiver by the Department head based on exceptional circumstances. HHS Staff Divisions did not hold any Conferences in FY 2015 with expenses in excess of $500,000.

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