B-128842, SEP. 26, 1956

B-128842: Sep 26, 1956

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THE APPLICATION FOR A LOAN TO EXPAND OR CONSTRUCT CONVENTIONAL POWER PRODUCING FACILITIES MIGHT BE REJECTED IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE USE OF NUCLEAR POWER IS MORE ECONOMICAL. IT IS STATED IN THE SUBMISSION THAT THE CONGRESS. THE CONGRESS WAS ADVISED OF THE DIFFICULTY IN SECURING ATOMIC ENGINEERS FOR ITS WORK. NO REQUEST WAS MADE FOR AUTHORITY TO TRAIN REA EMPLOYEES AS OCCURRED IN THIS CASE. THE EMPLOYEE HERE WAS SELECTED TO ATTEND THE SERIES OF COURSES EXTENDING FROM NOVEMBER 7. THE ACTING SECRETARY POINTS OUT THAT IT WAS THROUGH THIS TRAINING THAT REA WAS ABLE ADEQUATELY TO EVALUATE THE FIRST TWO PROPOSALS BY BORROWERS TO INSTALL NUCLEAR REACTER POWER PLANTS. WE HAVE BEEN INFORMALLY ADVISED THAT THE ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY IS A WHOLLY OWNED GOVERNMENT INSTALLATION WHICH IS OPERATED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDER A CONTRACT WITH AEC.

B-128842, SEP. 26, 1956

TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE:

BY LETTER OF AUGUST 2, 1956, THE ACTING SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE REQUESTS OUR DECISION WHETHER FUNDS FROM THE 1956 SALARIES AND EXPENSE APPROPRIATION OF THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION CAN PROPERLY BE USED TO PAY THE $1,500 TUITION OF AN EMPLOYEE, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR OF THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION, WHO ATTENDED A SERIES OF COURSES IN NUCLEAR REACTOR TECHNOLOGY CONDUCTED BY THE ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION AT THE ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY SCHOOL OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, LAMONT, ILLINOIS.

THE ACTING SECRETARY'S LETTER STATES THAT THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION MAKES LONG TERM LOANS TO FINANCE THE CONSTRUCTION OF FACILITIES FOR FURNISHING ELECTRIC ENERGY TO PERSONS IN RURAL AREAS; THAT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAST 4 OR 5 YEARS IN THE PRODUCTION OF POWER BY NUCLEAR REACTORS INDICATE DEFINITE POSSIBILITIES IN THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION FIELD; AND THAT, IN REVIEWING APPLICATIONS FOR AND MAKING LOANS TO FINANCE POWER PRODUCTION FACILITIES, REA MUST CONSIDER THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NUCLEAR POWER REACTOR FIELD. PRESUMABLY, THE APPLICATION FOR A LOAN TO EXPAND OR CONSTRUCT CONVENTIONAL POWER PRODUCING FACILITIES MIGHT BE REJECTED IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE USE OF NUCLEAR POWER IS MORE ECONOMICAL. IT IS STATED IN THE SUBMISSION THAT THE CONGRESS, IN CONSIDERING THE AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR 1955, EVIDENCED AN INTEREST IN THE USE OF REA OF ITS FUNDS IN FURTHERING THE STUDY OF THE FEASIBILITY OF THE USE OF NUCLEAR POWER IN THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION PROGRAM. IN THE REPRINT OF THE HEARINGS BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 84TH CONGRESS, ON THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS FOR 1956, PART 3, PAGE 1507, THE CONGRESS WAS ADVISED OF THE DIFFICULTY IN SECURING ATOMIC ENGINEERS FOR ITS WORK, BUT NO REQUEST WAS MADE FOR AUTHORITY TO TRAIN REA EMPLOYEES AS OCCURRED IN THIS CASE.

THE EMPLOYEE HERE WAS SELECTED TO ATTEND THE SERIES OF COURSES EXTENDING FROM NOVEMBER 7, 1955, TO JUNE 13, 1956, FOLLOWING THE INVITATION TO REA FROM AEC TO NOMINATE AN EMPLOYEE FOR THAT PURPOSE. THE ACTING SECRETARY POINTS OUT THAT IT WAS THROUGH THIS TRAINING THAT REA WAS ABLE ADEQUATELY TO EVALUATE THE FIRST TWO PROPOSALS BY BORROWERS TO INSTALL NUCLEAR REACTER POWER PLANTS. WE HAVE BEEN INFORMALLY ADVISED THAT THE ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY IS A WHOLLY OWNED GOVERNMENT INSTALLATION WHICH IS OPERATED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO UNDER A CONTRACT WITH AEC. THE BOOKS AND EQUIPMENT SUPPLIED FOR THE COURSES WERE PURCHASED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO WITH AEC FUNDS. WE ARE ALSO INFORMALLY ADVISED THAT NO GRADUATE CREDIT WAS GIVEN BY THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO TO THOSE WHO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THE COURSES. AT THE TIME THESE COURSES WERE OFFERED THERE WAS NO OTHER SUCH COURSE OFFERED ANYWHERE. APPROXIMATELY 60 PERSONS ATTENDED THE COURSES, INCLUDING REPRESENTATIVES OF INDUSTRY. ONLY THOSE INVITED BY AEC COULD ATTEND SO THAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE EMPLOYEE TO SECURE THE TRAINING ON HIS OWN.

REA DOES NOT HAVE ANY SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORITY PERTAINING TO TRAINING OF EMPLOYEES.

THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATION ACT, 1956, PUBLIC LAW 70, 69 STAT. 58, INCLUDES FUNDS---

"TO CARRY INTO EFFECT THE PROVISIONS OF THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ACT OF 1936, AS AMENDED (7 U.S.C. 901-924), AS FOLLOWS:

"FOR ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES * * * $7,680,000.'

IN PREVIOUS DECISIONS BEARING ON THIS QUESTION WE HAVE FOLLOWED CLOSELY THE ESTABLISHED RULE THAT APPROPRIATIONS MADE IN GENERAL TERMS FOR PARTICULAR PURPOSES MAY BE USED FOR THE PAYMENT OF TUITION AND EXPENSES INCIDENT TO THE TRAINING OF SELECTED CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES IN SPECIALIZED COURSES OF INSTRUCTION OF BRIEF DURATION WHEN IT IS ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED THAT THE INSTRUCTION IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED WITH AND ESSENTIAL TO THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH THE APPROPRIATION IS MADE. SEE 34 COMP. GEN. 168, 32 ID. 339, 31 ID. 623.

IN A DECISION OF THIS OFFICE, 15 COMP. GEN. 585, WE STATED THE RATIONALE FOR THE RULE AS FOLLOWS:

"* * * THE ATTENDANCE AT A COLLEGE OR OTHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION, EITHER FOR THE EMPLOYEE'S OWN IMPROVEMENT OR FOR THE GOOD OF THE SERVICE, IS NOT, ORDINARILY, WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE APPOINTMENT OR DUTIES OF A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE AND THAT SUCH EMPLOYEE WOULD NOT BE ENTITLED EITHER TO COMPENSATION OR TO REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSES WHILE SO OCCUPIED AND RENDERING NO SERVICE TO THE GOVERNMENT. 2 COMP. GEN. 17; 6 ID. 15. THE FACT THAT THE INSTRUCTION IS TO BE GIVEN BY A FEDERAL AGENCY DOES NOT AUTHORIZE THE APPLICATION OF A DIFFERENT RULE. * * *"

WE DO NOT QUESTION THAT IT IS ADMINISTRATIVELY DESIRABLE THAT TRAINING OF THE TYPE HERE INVOLVED BE FURNISHED SELECTED EMPLOYEES OF REA. HOWEVER, OUR OPINION IS THAT AGENCIES SHOULD OBTAIN EXPRESS STATUTORY AUTHORITY FOR PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION, TUITION, AND OTHER EXPENSES TO EMPLOYEES DURING PROLONGED PERIODS OF ABSENCE FROM THEIR REGULAR DUTIES WHILE ATTENDING TRAINING COURSES, WHETHER THOSE COURSES ARE CONDUCTED BY GOVERNMENT OR PRIVATE ACTIVITIES. IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT A PERIOD OF TRAINING EXTENDING OVER 7 MONTHS IS NOT OF BRIEF DURATION, AS THAT TERM IS USED IN OUR DECISIONS.

IN VIEW OF THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORITY PERTAINING TO TRAINING OF EMPLOYEES BY THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION AND OF THE REQUIREMENT AS SET FORTH IN OUR DECISIONS, THE 1956 SALARIES AND EXPENSE APPROPRIATION, SUPRA, MAY NOT BE USED TO PAY THE TUITION EXPENSE OF $1,500 HEREIN INVOLVED.