Fiscal Year 2017 Report on Conferences Sponsored by HHS Staff Divisions

January 30, 2018

Topics in this report: About the Department | About the Report/Background | Description of the Report | Fiscal Year 2017 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 research catalyzes innovative breakthroughs that are shared at scientific conferences and other related meetings and, again, serves to accelerate collaboration that 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 regulatory policy and law to promote efficient spending on Conferences and Meetings in support of Agency Operations (OMB M-12-12; OMB M-17-08; the Consolidated  Appropriations Act, 2017 ); and the 21st Century Cures Act It is noted here that HHS Operating Divisions (OPDIVs) are responsible for preparing their own individual reports on conference expenses as set forth in the referenced appropriations law. Links to these reports will be available on this site shortly.

Summary Background

Since the issuance of Executive Orders to promote more efficient spending in support of agency operations, HHS has continued to take positive steps to gain efficiencies in the use of Appropriated Funds for conferences and meetings while ensuring it remains in full compliance with those directives and all related legal requirements. Building off cross-agency work groups, the Department regularly assesses the enhancement or development of new tools and processes for planning and hosting conferences. The HHS Conference Procurement and Planning Toolkit first developed in 2013 remains a resource of best practices for planning a conference and for securing contractor services, meeting space, and other logistical support aspects of a conference. On October 1, 2016 the Department launched an enhanced version of its Conference Tracking Application (CTA 2.0) which was first introduced in 2013 to manage the advanced approval and reporting of conference activities and to aggregate costs across HHS STAFFDIVs supporting the same event. In providing enhanced workflow systems agencies were enabled to process requests to attend conferences more efficiently and accurately. Along with new reporting features, CTA delivers a robust on-line system to meet both the approval and reporting government-wide requirements. HHS also refreshed its policies in FY 2017 to reflect changes in OMMB 17-08 and the 21st Century Cures Act 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 has continued to work with OMB and Congress to provide technical assistance in understanding HHS business and administrative practices to assure legal compliance.

Description of the Report:

Federal Government Agencies are required to report the following information:

  • Expenses for HHS hosted conferences in FY 2017 when costs exceed $100,000, as well as general information about conference activities throughout the year.
  • A description of all conferences hosted or sponsored by HHS STAFFDIVs where net expenses associated with the conference were in excess of $100,000, along with:
    • the total conference expenses
    • the location of the conference;
    • the date of the conference;
    • a brief explanation on how the conference advanced the mission of the STAFFDIVs and
    • the total number of individuals whose travel or other conference expenses were paid by government

Fiscal Year 2017 Summary:

For FY 2017 HHS is submitting a negative report for both the Annual Public Report and the Annual Report on Scientific Meetings as STAFFDIVs did not host any conferences where the net expenses exceeded $100,000. By comparison, in FY 2016 STAFFDIVs sponsored 3 conferences at a total cost of $819,628.

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 host any conferences in FY 2017 requiring a Waiver.

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