Travel funding is always among the first casualties when budgets are cut. After U.S. General Services Administration staffers got into trouble for lavish overspending at a Las Vegas conference, the U.S. government adopted tighter travel rules, prompting the Pentagon to announce it would review any conference, trade show or other event costing $100,000 or more to attend.
Moving one general and his staff can cost that much, dealing a blow to trade shows that justify their existence by putting executives and defense leaders together.
Exhibitors have been willing to bear the cost of these shows to make their case — whether for a system, policy or more money — to a specific official, while gathering intel and exchanging ideas.
Such shows are a remarkably economical way of getting folks together in one place to get a lot done in a short time period.
In an era of fiscal austerity, the need to communicate and exchange ideas is going up, not down.
Service leaders have an obligation to remain engaged, but must better plan their leadership gatherings and trade events to maximize the value of each.
The days of military tourism are over, along with every commander traveling around world with their entire staffs to attend every conference.
One way to reduce trade show costs is to follow the U.S. Marine Corps’ lead — hold the show on a military base, not at a swanky hotel or conference center.
The key is to make sure you don’t waste money on travel at the expense of trips that have real value.