Action Memo for the Secretary

FROM: M – Alaina Teplitz, Acting

SUBJECT: (SBU) Waiver of OMB Memorandum 12-12 (M‑12‑12) Policy Prohibiting Expenditures in Excess of $500,000 on a Single Conference for the Global 2023 COM Conference

Recommendation: That you, in accordance with OMB M‑12‑12, determine that exceptional circumstances exist whereby spending in excess of $500,000 on the Global 2023 COM Conference to be held June 12-14, in Washington, DC, is the most cost‑effective option to achieve a compelling purpose. (Approve/Disapprove by 4/30/23)


(U) The 2023 Global COM Conference will assemble the Department’s senior leadership from overseas and domestic offices to consult on Administration priorities and leverage the knowledge, experience, and views of your team in addressing today’s foreign policy challenges. In addition, this in-person conference provides a crucial opportunity to share updates and guidance on our most pressing policy and management challenges.

(U) On May 11, 2012, OMB issued M‑12‑12, which sets forth a policy prohibiting any executive-branch agency from incurring costs in excess of $500,000 from its own funds on a single conference, including conferences that the agency sponsors or hosts. The policy authorizes the agency head to provide a waiver “if he or she determines that exceptional circumstances exist whereby spending in excess of $500,000 on a single conference is the most cost ‑effective option to achieve a compelling purpose.” The grounds for such a waiver must be in writing and signed by the agency head. You approved the waiver for the 2022 COM Conference.

(U) S/ES-EX will fund the conference with existing FY23 resources. In light of known expenses, we expect the 2023 COM Conference will also exceed $500,000. Therefore, we are requesting your approval for spending in excess of $500,000 on the COM Conference to be held in June at HST. The final sum of all expenses will be submitted via the Conference Tracking and Approval System. COM travel expenses, which will be approved and funded by the appropriate regional bureau, account for a large percentage of the total cost.

(U) On the margins of the two-day event, each COM generally also attends a one- or two-day conference with her/his regional bureau. This allows the Department to maximize the return on travel costs and provides each COM and the relevant bureau an opportunity to focus on key regional issues in addition to the global agenda. By hosting the conference at Department-owned facilities in Washington, COMs have the opportunity to conduct internal consultations with a range of Department offices and external consultations with members of Congress and other agencies. This avoids separate travel expenses for the purpose of consultations and regional conferences and minimizes overall Department costs. For these reasons, we believe hosting this conference in Washington is justified and represents a responsible use of appropriated funds, despite costing more than $500,000. As in past years, we expect the majority of costs to be attributed to travel costs, which each regional bureau directly approves and funds.

U.S. Department of State

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