WASHINGTON — Geological visits to monitor volcanoes in Alaska have been scaled back. The defense secretary is traveling to Afghanistan two times a year instead of the usual four. For the first time in nearly three decades, NASA pulled out of the National Space Symposium, in Colorado Springs, Colo., even though representatives from France, Germany and China made the trip.
Five months after gridlock in Washington triggered the deep spending cuts known as sequestration, much of the U.S. government is grounded.
Most government travel budgets have been cut this year by 30 percent, the result of an administration directive forcing managers to make difficult policy decisions about whom to send, where to send them and for how long. The result, agency officials say, is a government that cannot conduct essential business and is embarrassing itself abroad.
"We talk about being a leader in space exploration," said Elliot Pulham, chief executive of the Space Foundation, which sponsored the NASA-free symposium in Colorado. "But it's hard to be a leader if you don't show up."
Not necessarily, say budget hawks like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "Hopefully what you will have is more sound judgment at these agencies about what is critical travel and what isn't," Coburn said. "There is no question that federal employees should have some travel and go to some conferences, but most of it has nothing to do with their jobs. It's a perk."