B-151815, AUG. 15, 1963, 43 COMP. GEN. 162

B-151815: Aug 15, 1963

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MILITARY PERSONNEL - DEBTS - REMISSION - DEBTS INCURRED IN OTHER SERVICES A DEBT ESTABLISHED AGAINST A NAVY ENLISTED MEMBER BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE AS A RESULT OF THE MEMBER NEGLIGENTLY DRIVING A NAVY TRUCK INTO THE BACK OF AN AIR FORCE STATION WAGON IS NOT A DEBT OVER WHICH THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY HAS JURISDICTION FOR THE EXERCISE OF DEBT REMISSION OR CANCELLATION AUTHORITY UNDER 10 U.S.C. 6161. 1963: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF JUNE 14. THE REQUEST FOR DECISION WAS ASSIGNED SUBMISSION NO. IT WAS EXPLAINED IN THE LETTER OF JUNE 14. THE AUTHORITY GRANTED THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY TO REMIT OR CANCEL AN ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED INDEBTEDNESS OF AN ENLISTED MEMBER OF THE NAVY IS STATED IN 10 U.S.C. 6161.

B-151815, AUG. 15, 1963, 43 COMP. GEN. 162

MILITARY PERSONNEL - DEBTS - REMISSION - DEBTS INCURRED IN OTHER SERVICES A DEBT ESTABLISHED AGAINST A NAVY ENLISTED MEMBER BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE AS A RESULT OF THE MEMBER NEGLIGENTLY DRIVING A NAVY TRUCK INTO THE BACK OF AN AIR FORCE STATION WAGON IS NOT A DEBT OVER WHICH THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY HAS JURISDICTION FOR THE EXERCISE OF DEBT REMISSION OR CANCELLATION AUTHORITY UNDER 10 U.S.C. 6161.

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, AUGUST 15, 1963:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF JUNE 14, 1963, FROM THE UNDER SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, REQUESTING A DECISION WHETHER THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, OR HIS DELEGATEE PURSUANT TO PERTINENT REGULATIONS, HIS AUTHORITY TO CONSIDER FOR REMISSION AND CANCELLATION THE INDEBTEDNESS OF AN ENLISTED MEMBER OF THE MARINE CORPS UNDER AN ARMY REPORT OF SURVEY CONDUCTED AND APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 10 U.S.C. 4835. THE REQUEST FOR DECISION WAS ASSIGNED SUBMISSION NO. SS-N-/MC/-708 BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MILITARY PAY AND ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE.

IT WAS EXPLAINED IN THE LETTER OF JUNE 14, 1963, THAT THIS CASE APPEARS TO BE THE SAME IN ALL ESSENTIAL PARTICULARS AS THAT CONSIDERED IN OUR DECISION OF MARCH 7, 1962, B-148033. IN THAT CASE, THE INDEBTEDNESS AROSE BECAUSE THE NAVY ENLISTED MAN THERE INVOLVED NEGLIGENTLY DROVE INTO THE REAR OF AN AIR FORCE STATION WAGON WHILE OPERATING A NAVY PICK-UP TRUCK CAUSING DAMAGE TO THE AIR FORCE VEHICLE IN THE AMOUNT OF $598.12. EXPRESSED THE VIEW THAT THE DETERMINATION OF DAMAGE TO PROPERTY OF THE UNITED STATES MADE UNDER A SIMILAR PROVISION OF LAW (10 U.S.C. 9835), BY THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE, MUST BE CONSIDERED TO BE EVIDENCE OF A GENERAL INDEBTEDNESS DUE THE UNITED STATES IN THE ABSENCE OF A COURT DECISION GIVING THE LAW A MORE RESTRICTIVE APPLICATION, AND SUFFICIENT TO PERMIT AN APPROPRIATE DEDUCTION FROM THE FINAL PAY OF THE ENLISTED MEMBER BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY.

THE AUTHORITY GRANTED THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY TO REMIT OR CANCEL AN ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED INDEBTEDNESS OF AN ENLISTED MEMBER OF THE NAVY IS STATED IN 10 U.S.C. 6161, AS FOLLOWS:

IF HE CONSIDERS IT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES, THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY MAY HAVE REMITTED OR CANCELED ANY PART OF AN ENLISTED MEMBER'S INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES OR ANY OF ITS INSTRUMENTALITIES REMAINING UNPAID BEFORE, OR AT THE TIME OF, THAT MEMBER'S HONORABLE DISCHARGE.

THE ABOVE-QUOTED STATUTORY PROVISIONS CONTAIN THE SAME LANGUAGE AS SECTION 4837 (D) OF TITLE 10, RELATING TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, AND IN SECTION 9837 (D) OF TITLE 10, RELATING TO THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE. THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY SHOWS THAT THE NEW SECTION (6161) WAS ADDED IN ORDER TO CONFORM TO THE LATTER TWO SECTIONS AND THUS PROVIDE A UNIFORM PRACTICE FOR THE ARMY, NAVY AND AIR FORCE, WITH RESPECT TO THE REMISSION OR CANCELLATION OF THE INDEBTEDNESS OF ENLISTED MEN.

IN 38 COMP. GEN. 788, WE HELD THAT THE AUTHORITY IN 10 U.S.C. 4837 (D), PERMITTING THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY TO HAVE REMITTED OR CANCELED ANY PART OF AN ENLISTED MEMBER'S INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES, OR ANY OF ITS INSTRUMENTALITIES, REMAINING UNPAID BEFORE, OR AT THE TIME OF, THE MEMBER'S HONORABLE DISCHARGE, IS STATED IN BROAD LANGUAGE AND IMPOSES NO RESTRICTION AS TO THE ORIGIN OF THE INDEBTEDNESS. ALL THAT THE STATUTE APPARENTLY REQUIRES BEFORE REMISSION ACTION MAY BE TAKEN IS AN INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES AND A CURRENT STATUS FOR THE DEBTOR AS AN ENLISTED MAN UNDER THE SECRETARY CONCERNED AND THAT THE DEPARTMENT HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE DEBT. THE FIRST TWO FACTORS ARE FOUND IN THE PRESENT CASE. THE ONLY QUESTION THEN IS ONE OF JURISDICTION OVER THE DEBT. IN THIS CONNECTION IT IS OUR VIEW THAT THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY DOES NOT HAVE JURISDICTION OVER A DEBT ESTABLISHED BY AN ARMY OR AIR FORCE REPORT OF SURVEY CONSIDERED AND APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 10 U.S.C. 4835 OR 10 U.S.C. 9835. A DETERMINATION TO HOLD A PERSON PECUNIARILY LIABLE FOR DAMAGE TO GOVERNMENT PROPERTY "IS FINAL" WHEN APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY CONCERNED OR AN OFFICER OF HIS DEPARTMENT DESIGNATED BY HIM UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE APPLICABLE STATUTES AND THE DEBT THUS ESTABLISHED IS UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THAT DEPARTMENT. ACCORDINGLY, THE QUESTION IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE. CF. 37 COMP. GEN. 45.