Staff at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington spent more than 9,000 hours during five months last year preparing and reviewing requests from its scientists and engineers to attend conferences and present research. The tab for taxpayers was $824,000.
The Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico spent $1.6 million to review similar travel and conference requests during one fiscal year, an increase of $1.4 million from the previous one.
And Los Alamos officials poured $708,500 into updating a travel and expense management system so they could track all the paperwork.
These expenses are among the extraordinary costs that federal agencies say they have incurred in the three years since the Obama administration severely clamped down on employee travel to training and other conferences, after a Las Vegas spending scandal.
The Government Accountability Office identified the examples in a study this month of the 2012 policy’s effects on science, technology and engineering researchers at the Defense and Energy departments, which employ more than 129,000 of these experts.
GAO, the watchdog arm of Congress, concluded that travel restrictions at the two agencies have severely curtailed attendance at academic conferences, a frustration felt by employees across the federal government.