U.S. Army Seeks to Waive $500,000 Conference Spending Cap

The U.S. Army will seek a waiver to participate in a Washington conference after the White House imposed a $500,000 spending limit amid a scandal at the General Services Administration.

The exemption is for the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Arlington, Virginia. The three-day event begins Oct. 22 and is billed as “one of the largest land warfare expositions and professional development forums in the world,” with about 38,000 attendees and 600 industry and military exhibits.

The Army authorized 10 organizations and commands to provide exhibits at this year’s event, according to a July 23 memo signed by Lieutenant General William Troy and obtained by Bloomberg News. The document doesn’t specify how many troops will attend or how much it will cost.

The forum is “a valuable platform for communicating Army strategic themes and messages,” Troy wrote. “But leaders must make every effort to reduce our spending levels.”

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget on May 11 prohibited conference expenses of more than $500,000. The action came a month after the release of an inspector general report that found the General Services Administration spent more than $823,000 at a conference near Las Vegas.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned amid the fallout from the scandal. At least a dozen agency employees and managers were fired or placed on administrative leave and the inspector general referred the matter to the Justice Department.

“We’re the polar opposite of events like that,” David Liddle, a spokesman for AUSA, said in a telephone interview. “We’re proud of our program.”

The Army conference is “serious business” with panels on congressional, cultural and financial matters, Liddle said. It also helps connect enlisted soldiers with leaders such as Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, he said.

“Everybody is very well aware of the need to be cost-conscious,” Dave Foster, an Army spokesman who confirmed the memorandum, said in a telephone interview.