GSA freezes feds' 2013 travel per diem rates at 2012 levels

Tuesday - 8/14/2012, 2:50pm EDT

Per diem rates for work-related federal travel in 2013 are frozen at 2012 levels, according to the General Services Administration.

GSA sets the allowances for lodging, meals and other incidental expenses for federal employees who must travel for work. The standard per diem rate is $123 ($77 lodging, $46 meals and incidental expenses).

Per diem rates vary for cities and counties that federal employees travel most often to. These locations are known as non-standard areas and include cities such as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. These non-standard area rates are also frozen for 2013, said a GSA spokesperson. However, sources confirmed to Federal News Radio that 10 cities will be added as NSAs in 2013 at the request of agencies. These cities have not yet been announced.

GSA said the action to freeze per diem rates reflects an Office of Management and Budget memo directing agencies to cut travel in fiscal 2013 by 30 percent compared with fiscal 2010.

"GSA is undergoing a rigorous review process to find ways in which we can streamline agency operations and save money across the government," said GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini in a statement. "By keeping per diem rates at current levels, we are supporting federal agencies in controlling costs and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used wisely."

Prior to the release of the 2013 per diem rates, some legislators had urged GSA to ensure reimbursement rates were not too low.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said GSA uses the average of mid-price hotels to calculate the rate, and then reduces that average by 5 percent. GSA does not include luxury or economy hotels in this calculation, but it also eliminates the highest mid-range hotels, which leads to an "artificially low rate," Reid said in a July 19 letter to Tangherlini.

"Although I support efforts to save taxpayer dollars, I am concerned that the changes proposed by your agency have not been fully analyzed and could ultimately increase costs to the taxpayers," Reid said in the letter.

So far, Reid has not received a response from GSA, according to a Democratic aide.

Government sources told Federal News Radio that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) have also sent letters to GSA.