A blip in the budget wars with clear implications for associations such as APhA, a Senate amendment to a budget bill that would have restricted the number of federal employees who can attend a conference to 25 was never brought up for a vote.
As part of a push spearheaded by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to defeat the amendment, APhA issued letters to senators on March 19 urging them to reject Senate Amendment 67 to the continuing resolution bill (H.R. 933) passed by the House. APhA also signed a March 18 letter to senators from ASAE.
“While the amendment is intended to limit spending on government-sponsored conferences and travel expenses for federal employees, the net result would be fewer opportunities to learn and exchange information between the public and private sector,” APhA wrote. “However well-intentioned, the amendment has broad implications for associations and other non-government organizations that invite government employees to give presentations or attend their conferences.”
This year, APhA’s Federal Pharmacy Forum that’s held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting saw a decline in attendance of 50% due to travel restrictions, according to the letter. Also, APhA is the meeting manager for the Joint Forces Pharmacy Seminar, for which this year’s attendance was down 40% due to travel restrictions.
“In effect, we won a battle, but still need to win the war with examples of how the federal and private sectors benefit from each other via face to face meetings,” said LTC (ret) Stacia Spridgen, PharmD, U.S. Army, APhA Director of Federal Pharmacy Programs.
Spridgen provided pharmacist.com with a brief history of the issue. Last June, after the Government Accountability Office held a conference in Las Vegas, news followed about lavish spending and inappropriate use of tax dollars. This was followed by more news about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and conference spending. Then sequestration hit and conference attendance was the first to be cut.
“It has snowballed from there,” Spridgen said.