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Special General Memorandum 2007-01


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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Public Health Service
     Indian Health Service
 Rockville MD 20852

SGM 2007-01
JUN 27, 2007

TO: All Employees

FROM: Director

SUBJECT: Indian Health Service Meeting/Event Travel Approval

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide definitions, guidance on the approval process, and establish operational requirements for the Indian Health Service (IHS) Travel Event Request System (TERS).  This memorandum implements provisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Travel Manual, Chapter 1-40, Transmittal 2007-01, “Policy Guidelines Regarding Attendance at Conferences, Administrative Meetings and Other Events.” The majority of IHS meetings are defined under this policy as “administrative meetings” or “other events,” and not “conferences.”

  1. Definitions

    1. Conference.  A “conference” is a scientific, medical, or professional meeting that is held for consultation, education, or discussion of scientific, medical, human services or public health issues.  It includes attendees who are not all HHS attendees, is not held at a space that is owned, leased, or shared by HHS and involves costs associated with the travel or lodging for any HHS attendees.

    2. Administrative Meeting.  An “administrative meeting” is a meeting held for purposes of consultation, education, or discussion of issues relating to the development, implementation, or management of the IHS programs and operations, may include attendees who are not all IHS attendees, may be held at an IHS facility, other government facility, or private facility, and involves costs associated with the travel or lodging for any IHS attendee.

    3. Other Events.  An “other event” is any meeting for any purpose attended by an IHS attendee that does not meet the criteria for a “conference” or “administrative meeting” as defined above.  All IHS or government sanctioned training activities at which training is provided in accordance with 5 Code of Federal Regulations § 41 0.404 to IHS employees are considered “other events.”

  2. Attendance by HHS Attendees at Conferences.  The Director, IHS, has the non-delgable responsibility to consider and, only if appropriate, approve up to fifty (50) travelers from IHS to attend the same “conference,” subject to the guidelines set forth in the HHS Transmittal 2007-01, Section C, “Attendance by HHS Attendees at Conferences.”  Any number of travelers greater than fifty (50) to attend the same conference, after being considered appropriate by the Director, IHS, must be submitted to the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (ASAM) for approval.  It is the responsibility of the sponsoring Headquarters Office Director or Area Director to notify the Director, IHS, through the IHS Senior Travel Official (STO) when attendance by IHS attendees will or may reasonably be expected to exceed fifty (50).  The Deputy Director for Management Operations, is the designated IHS STO.  (See the IHS Delegation of Authority, Program #20, “Senior Travel Official.”)

  3. Responsibilities.  The responsibilities of the Director, IHS, Headquarters Office Directors, and Area Directors for attendance by IHS attendees at administrative meetings and other events are listed below.

    1. Approval Process -Director, IHS.  All Headquarters-sponsored and Area-sponsored “administrative meetings” or “other events” that have an expected attendance of 50 or more IHS staff in a per diem travel status must have prior approval from the Director, IHS.  This prior approval is required for the location and number of attendees, as well as, other considerations such as the availability of teleconference or video conference; a cost comparison of potential locations; and an assurance that minimal requirements are met in terms of access and logistics, etc.  The IHS Director’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following:

      1. The non-delegable responsibility to consider and, if appropriate, approve expenditures of up to $4,000 for one trip per traveler (increased from $2,500).  Expenditures of $4,000 or greater, after being considered appropriate by the Director, IHS, must he submitted to the ASAM for approval.

      2. The non-delegable responsibility to consider and, if appropriate, approve the use of premium-class travel only when the use of premium-class travel is consistent with Departmental policy and the Federal Travel Regulations.  When a medical condition is used as a justification for the use of premium-class travel, no such approval shall be given until such time as the traveler files with the Director, IHS, a certification from an appropriate medical professional (other than the traveler, an employee subordinate to the traveler, or the Director, IHS), that the traveler’s medical condition warrants the use of premium-class travel.

    2. Approval Process - Headquarters Office Directors.  All IHS-wide “administrative meetings” or “other events” that have an expected attendance of between 20 to 49 IHS staff in a per diem travel status must have prior approval from the sponsoring Headquarters Office Director.  This prior approval must be submitted through TERS.  The requests will include the location and number of attendees and other considerations such as the availability of teleconference or video conference, a cost comparison of potential locations, and an assurance that minimal requirements are met in terms of access and logistics.

    3. Approval Process - Area Directors,  All Area-wide or regional “administrative meetings” or “other events” that have an expected attendance of between 20 to 49 IHS staff in a per diem travel status must have prior approval from the sponsoring Area Director.  This prior approval is required for the location and the number of attendees and other considerations such as the availability of teleconference or video conference, a cost comparison of potential locations, and an assurance that minimal requirements are met in terms of access and logistics.

      Note;  Although the Director, IHS, does not impose a prior review on the number of IHS attendees for “administrative meetings” or “other events,” it remains the non-delegable responsibility of the sponsoring Headquarters Office Director or Area Director to ensure the purpose, location, perception, and number of IHS attendees for “administrative meetings” or “other events,” is appropriate for the mission of IHS and budget considerations.

  4. Timeframes for Submitting Requests.  Sufficient lead time is required for submitting requests.  In accordance with the HHS policy: No IHS staff may enter into any agreement for the purpose of planning, hosting, scheduling, arranging, or providing services for an “administrative meeting” or “other event” without first obtaining the prior approval from the Director, IHS, Headquarters Office Director, or Area Director, as applicable.

  5. Travel Event Request System.  I extend my appreciation to the National Council of Executive Officers (NCEO) for providing recommendations for changes to the current requirements for IHS approval of meeting or event attendance.  After careful consideration, of the NCEO comments and recommendations, modifications to the TERS have been scheduled and many have been completed.  These modifications improve and streamline the TERS approval process and provide an effective tool for approving and tracking “administrative meetings” and “other events” as well as maintaining the data for the quarterly travel report required by the Department.  In addition, the submission of requests in the TERS enables the Area Offices to exercise the appropriate oversight and control over “administrative meetings” and “other events.”

    Even though I strongly encourage the use of the TERS, Area staff are not required to submit “administrative meetings” or “other events” requests in TERS for the attendance of between 20 to 49 participants, as long as an approval tracking system capable of generating statistical reporting data upon request or as needed is utilized by the Area Office.  These reports must include the event name; Area Office, program, or region; dates and locations of travel; groups attending and number of travelers; event purpose and outcome; and total costs (delineated by common carrier costs, per diem costs, and all other costs).

    This Special General Memorandum supersedes the Delegation of Authority, Administrative #6, “Conference Management,” dated May 31, 1984.

    In closing, I am counting on your full support in ensuring that the responsible staff are made aware of and adhere to the guidance provided in this memorandum.  This decision is effective immediately.

/Charles W. Grim, D.D.S./
Charles W. Grim, D.D.S., M.H.S.A.
Assistant Surgeon General

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