Ensuring greater transparency in the travel of heads of federal agencies, Cabinet secretaries

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Scrutinizing elected officials’ travel is not a new issue. With many Cabinet secretaries and members of the current administration coming under heavy criticism, and even some resigning as a result, for their improper use of taxpayer dollars for travel, it is time for a new solution to an old problem.

Prior administrations, from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration to the Obama administration, have all come under examination at some point for their misuse and methods of taxpayer-funded travel. Currently, members of Congress are not prohibited from flying lavishly and first-class, and there are no disincentives or laws preventing member of Congress, Cabinet secretaries or heads of agencies from doing so.

The absence of laws preventing either Cabinet secretaries or members of Congress from flying first class, is one reason why I became a co-sponsor of Rep. Rod Blum’s (R-Iowa) bill to prevent members from doing so. It’s simply not right. Every elected official and every government official needs to remember – we are not spending the government’s money, we are spending taxpayer’s money.

I decided to continue the fight to protect taxpayer dollars by taking it a step further and by not only limiting the Legislative Branch, but also the Executive Branch. As a result of the recent reports, and the actions of previous administrations, I introduced the Formally List Your Travel Act, or FLY Act. This bill would ensure that all heads of federal agencies and Cabinet secretaries submit their travel logs more frequently.

Currently all agencies are required to submit their travel information to the General Services Administration (GSA) no later than Nov. 30 of each year. The FLY Act would change the reporting requirements for agencies to submit travel logs every month, quarter and fiscal year. This bill would require every agency to list the travel of the head of that agency every month for the previous month. At the start of every quarter, should the agency fail to report any travel logs for the previous three months, they must pay 1 percent of the agency head’s official office budget to the Treasury for deficit reduction.

At the end of each fiscal year, if no travel logs were submitted, the annual budget for the office of such agency head is reduced by 15 percent. Our goal is not to punish our secretaries and agency heads for travelling or deter them from doing so, instead our goal is to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly and transparently.

Furthermore, not only would we like to see more transparency for our high-level government officials, we would like to see more savings of taxpayer dollars. The FLY Act would do just that, by preventing any Senate-confirmed position from flying first-class entirely. Many Senate-confirmed positions are former elected officials, so they certainly understand the importance of not frivolously spending taxpayer dollars on a first-class flight. So, you think they wouldn’t? Wrong. Unfortunately, it continues to happen. Simply put, because they are no longer beholden to constituents from a particular district or state, this should not disallow them from remaining beholden to the taxpayer.

While no piece of legislation is ever perfect, I truly believe the FLY Act is a step in the right direction. A step to provide greater transparency for the American people, a step to prevent those in high-level positions from abusing their power, and a step towards saving hard-earned dollars in the long run.

Norman represents South Carolina’s 5th District.


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