NASA Conference Travel Restrictions Continue into 2014

Restrictions on NASA Conference Travel Extended into Fiscal Year (FY) 2014

As you are likely aware, the President was required by law in FY 13 to issue a sequestration order canceling approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the Federal Government for the remainder of the Federal fiscal year. In February 2013, OMB directed, among other things, that agencies provide heightened scrutiny of conference and travel activities funded from sequestered accounts. NASA subsequently issued guidance to its contractors (provided below) requiring Contracting Officer approval of certain conference and travel activities performed by Contractors. 

Congress passed and the President signed a Continuing Resolution in mid-October 2013 to provide NASA with continuing appropriations through January 15, 2014.  We are writing to notify you that the Conference and Conference-Related Travel guidance previously provided and included below continue to apply to conference and travel activities performed by NASA contractors through the current C.R. period, through January 15, 2014. In addition, Contractors should assume that these restrictions continue to apply through the remainder of FY 14 (through 9/30/2014) as well, unless you are directed otherwise by your cognizant Contracting Officer.

Conference and Conference-Related Travel

  1. If the contractor is directed to attend and/or travel to a conference, even if the requirement to attend or travel is explicitly stated in the contract or task order statement of work or other contract document, prior written approval from the Contracting Officer is required.
  2. If the contractor planned, proposed or otherwise determined that attending a conference and/or traveling to a conference is necessary to carry out a specific requirement of a contract, prior written approval from the Contracting Officer is required.
  3. If the contractor wants 1 or more employees to attend a conference and/or travel and the conference and travel is not required by the contract or necessary to carry out a specific requirement of the contract, but is discretionary, prior written approval from the Contracting Officer is required if the contractor will charge a NASA contract directly for the costs of the conference and travel. If the discretionary conference and travel will be properly charged to indirect accounts (overhead, G&A, etc.), approval is not required. 
  4. If the contractor wants 1 or more employees to attend a conference and/or travel on its own discretion and does not charge a NASA contract directly or indirectly, approval is not required.

In addition, NASA has limited domestic conference attendance to those conferences that meet all of the following criteria.

  1. The conference is essential and/or necessary (as compared to discretionary or preferable).  A scientific or technical presentation at a scientific or technical conference meets these criteria, but the other criteria must also be met.
  2. The conference contributes to the agency's core mission.
  3. There are no alternative methods of participating (e.g., phone, video conference, or pre-recorded video message).

For domestic conferences, any contractor whose conference travel requires Contracting Officer approval, as described above, must also register in the NASA Conference Tracking System (NCTS) at least 60 days in advance of the travel.  Once registration in NCTS is completed, the contractor should NOT assume that approval has been granted and should not expend funds on registration, travel costs, etc., until Contracting Officer approval is provided. If a contractor cannot meet the 60-day timeframe or is otherwise unable to register in the NCTS, your request must be forwarded to the Contracting Officer’s Representative for processing in the system. Both NCTS and Contracting Officer approval is required, in that order.

In summary, with respect to conference travel, the guidance is applicable to all circumstances where costs for conference travel will be directly charged to the contract; i.e., NASA requires or directs conference attendance, participation, and travel, or the contractor determines that attending a conference is necessary to carry out a requirement of the contract. “Requires or directs” includes SOW requirements, or any oral or written direction/approval resulting in a direct charge to a contract.  In these circumstances, processing through the NCTS is required, as well as approval by the Government Contracting Officer.

Other Non-Conference-related Travel

If contractor travel, for other than a conference, is planned, proposed or otherwise determined by the contractor to be necessary to perform, or otherwise meet the requirements of a NASA contract, regardless of whether it is charged directly or indirectly to the contract, approval is not required unless specifically required under the terms of the contract (e.g., 1852.242-71 Travel Outside of the United States).

If you have any questions, please call me at 301-286-4797.

Nettie Lindon
Contracting Officer