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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

U.S. Geological Survey Instructional Memorandum

No.: IM AEI 2014-03

Issuance Date:  January 30, 2014

Expiration Date:  Effective until Rescinded

Subject:  Conference-Related Activities and Spending

1.  Purpose.  This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Instructional Memorandum (IM) supersedes IM AEI 2011-08 and provides policy on conference-related activities and spending.

2.  Reference.  Department of the Interior (DOI) Financial Management Memorandum 2013-024 (Vol. VI.B.), "Authorization and Reporting Guidance on Conference-Related Activities and Spending," dated June 27, 2013.

3.  Responsibilities. 

A.  Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information.  The USGS has designated the Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information (AD-AEI), as having primary responsibility for determining if an event meets the definition of a conference.  The AD-AEI is assisted by the Bureau Conference Coordinator, who is responsible for providing policy, guidance, and procedures.  If an event is determined to be a conference, the AD-AEI is also responsible for ensuring USGS adherence to Federal and Departmental policies regarding conference-related activities and spending.  This includes adherence to the Federal conference planning guide found in Appendix E to Chapter 301 of the Federal Travel Regulation, the DOI Temporary Duty Travel Policy, and the Federal Acquisition Regulation  when contracting for conference-related goods and services. 

B.  USGS Leadership.  Executive Leadership Team members, managers, and supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their employees comply with travel and conference regulations, policy, and procedures.

C.  USGS Employees.  Employees are responsible for being knowledgeable of and in compliance with travel and conference policy and procedures.

4.  PolicyAll conference planning and conference attendance must be in accordance with this IM. 

5.  Definitions.  Departmental guidance defines conferences to include formal conferences and meetings that would not typically be considered a "conference."  For the purpose of this policy, conferences, meetings, and training are defined below.

A.  Conference. A conference is a gathering, retreat, seminar, symposium, or similar event that includes one or more of the following indicators:  registration, published agenda, scheduled speakers (includes invited), external participants, discussion panels, and breakout sessions.  Inclusion of training in a conference does not qualify the conference as a training session as there would be more than one significant objective.   A highly formalized meeting that includes one or more of the conference indicators may be considered a conference.

B.  Meeting.  A meeting is an internal business or information session primarily involving day-to-day operations where the purpose is to discuss topics, issues, and problems relative to the business or management of a USGS organization, even if external speakers are included on a limited basis.  Meetings include sessions of the USGS Executive Leadership Team or sessions relating to specific disciplines or initiatives that do not qualify as a conference.  For the purposes of this policy, meetings must comply with conference guidelines.

C.  Training.  Training sessions are not subject to this policy.  A training session involves employee development as the primary and only significant objective, characterized by one or more of the following:  program of instruction with defined learning objectives; classroom setting; course text/textbook, syllabus, and/or standardized training materials; individual assignments or group projects; tests, final examination or grade assigned; taking of attendance and issuance of completion documentation or certificates; use of SF-182 training form or equivalent as authorization for attendance; and offered by a commercial training vendor, DOI University or the Office of Employee Development. 

When designation of a session is unclear, the conference definition should be used.

6.  Conference Approval.  DOI approval is required for (a) all bureau-hosted conferences with 30 or more attendees and where 15 or more are in USGS-funded travel status (regardless of fund source); (b) for attendance at a non-bureau hosted conference where there are 15 or more USGS attendees (regardless of travel status);  (c) for all conferences with anticipated expenses of $100,000 or more; and (d) for attendance at any international conference or meeting (except in Canada) where there are more than 5 USGS attendees.   In addition, the USGS will report all conferences exceeding $20,000 (regardless of the number of people attending) to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) within 15 days of the event.

Note:  Individual attendees are not expected to know whether or not a particular conference will exceed the threshold that requires approval.  By entering all expected event attendance into the conference database, the bureau will be able to determine whether or not a conference requires approval or needs to be reported to the OIG.

7.  Annual Conference Plan.  Each fiscal year, the USGS will submit an annual plan itemizing all known and projected conferences requiring Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, Finance, Performance and Acquisition (DAS-BFPA) or Deputy Secretary approval.  Conferences exceeding $20,000 (regardless of the number of people attending) will also be included on the annual plan.  This plan will be updated quarterly.

8.  Conference Attendance Approval.

A.  For conferences expected to cost less than $100,000 – Approval by the DAS-BFPA. 

B.  For conferences expected to cost more than $100,000 but less than $500,000 – Approval by the Deputy Secretary.

(1)  Bureaus are not to incur net expenses greater than $500,000 from their own funds for a single conference, including conferences hosted or not hosted.  If exceptional circumstances exist, a waiver may be requested for approval through the USGS Director to the Secretary of the Department of Interior.

(2)  For conferences that require DOI approval, written approval must be obtained before conference hosts and attendees make any arrangements that cannot be cancelled without a financial penalty or are otherwise binding to the Government.  All planning communications about conferences with employees and cooperators should be identified as preliminary until approval for the conference is received.

For information on the timeline, contents, and format for submitting a conference approval package, refer to the Conferences section on the Campaign to Cut Waste SharePoint site (


/s/ Karen D. Baker                                                                                          January 30, 2014
_________________________________                                                   ________________
Karen D. Baker                                                                                                           Date
Acting Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information
and Human Capital

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