High-threat travel training not required; savings for all national labs
Some detective work by the manager of Argonne’s Global Travel Services and Security office will prevent a lot of hassle for many of the laboratory’s travelers and a large savings in training costs.
U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations require federal employees to undergo safety training if they travel to a high-risk country, with the High Threat Security Overseas Seminar (HTSOS) mandated for trips fewer than 45 days and the more intense Foreign Affairs Counter Threat protocol for 45 days or more.
Canada and Mexico are now considered high-risk by DOS — as will almost every country beginning in 2019. The registration for HTSOS is long and tedious. Plus, the training doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of Argonne employees, according to Joe Metallo, manager of Argonne’s Global Travel Services and Security office. The per-person cost for the five-day FACT is nearly $1,900 along with travel to the West Virginia training site — which would result in an annual expenditure in the millions for Argonne alone. And even if only one day out 45 is high-risk, the sessions are still a must.
Metallo set about to write a travel policy in this area for Argonne. During his research, he learned from a top U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) official that since employees of national laboratories are contractors, not federal employees, they are not bound by these regulations. He spread the word among colleagues, including at a workshop he held at the annual DOE travel managers meeting at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory last April.
All Argonne employees who travel internationally will still need training. “We believe safety training is imperative,” Metallo said, “but now we’re creating a curriculum that is more valuable to Argonne employees.”
Customized training is mandatory for high-risk countries, based on dangers such as security threats, crime, natural disasters and diseases. Each situation brings in experts on health, counterintelligence and cybersecurity, among other areas. A general in-house global training program is in the works.
The benefits are a large increase in savings for all national labs and less stress on travelers and administrative staff alike.
If you have questions about foreign travel or have a trip planned and need information, Global Travel Services and Security can provide a wide variety of information and services, from helping ease and expedite your passport or visa applications to answering tricky cultural questions. Contact them at GlobalTravel@anl.gov.
By Chris Howes