B-162674, FEB. 6, 1968

B-162674: Feb 6, 1968

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FIREFIGHTER PERSONNEL WHO WERE GIVEN SHELTER AND BUNK OR SLEEPING BAGS ARE REGARDED AS HAVING BEEN FURNISHED LODGING AND THEREFORE ON THE BASIS THAT MEALS AND LODGING WERE FURNISHED BY THE GOVT. A DEDUCTION OF $7.00 FROM THE PER DIEM IS PROPER. IT IS SUGGESTED THAT PERHAPS THE REGULATIONS SHOULD NOT INCLUDE IN THE PER DIEM ANY AMOUNT FOR LODGING IF COMMERCIAL LODGING IS NOT USED. THAT IS. YOU HAVE DOUBT AS TO WHETHER YOUR ACTION WAS PROPER. YOUR LETTER AND THE ENCLOSED VOUCHERS DID NOT FULLY EXPLAIN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE LODGING AND MEALS WHICH WERE MADE AVAILABLE AT THE TEMPORARY DUTY POINT. WE HAVE OBTAINED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM THE FINANCE OFFICER OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT AS INDICATED HEREINAFTER.

B-162674, FEB. 6, 1968

PER DIEM - MEALS AND LODGING FURNISHED BY GOVERNMENT DECISION TO CERTIFYING OFFICER OF BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT CONCERNING PROPRIETY OF DEDUCTING AN AMOUNT FROM FIREFIGHTER'S PER DIEM REPRESENTING MEALS AND LODGING (SLEEPING BAG AND/OR SHELTER WITHOUT BLANKETS) FURNISHED BY GOVT. FIREFIGHTER PERSONNEL WHO WERE GIVEN SHELTER AND BUNK OR SLEEPING BAGS ARE REGARDED AS HAVING BEEN FURNISHED LODGING AND THEREFORE ON THE BASIS THAT MEALS AND LODGING WERE FURNISHED BY THE GOVT. A DEDUCTION OF $7.00 FROM THE PER DIEM IS PROPER. IT IS SUGGESTED THAT PERHAPS THE REGULATIONS SHOULD NOT INCLUDE IN THE PER DIEM ANY AMOUNT FOR LODGING IF COMMERCIAL LODGING IS NOT USED.

TO MISS RUTH W. KENNEDY:

YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 10, 1967, WITH ENCLOSURES, REFERENCE 1382 (D733B- 2), ACKNOWLEDGED NOVEMBER 15, 1967, REQUESTS OUR DECISION WHETHER THE AMOUNT OF $21 MAY BE CERTIFIED ON THE ENCLOSED VOUCHER, STANDARD FORM NO. 1166, FOR PAYMENT TO KENNETH F. VANDERWALL. APPARENTLY THAT AMOUNT REPRESENTS PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AT THE RATE OF $7 WHICH YOUR OFFICE DEDUCTED FROM MR. VANDERWALL'S ORIGINAL TRAVEL VOUCHER FOR AUGUST 30, 31 AND SEPTEMBER 1, 1967, ON THE BASIS THAT HE HAD BEEN FURNISHED MEALS AND LODGING BY THE GOVERNMENT. IN VIEW OF THE TYPE OF LODGING FURNISHED, THAT IS, SLEEPING BAG AND/OR SHELTER WITHOUT BLANKETS, YOU HAVE DOUBT AS TO WHETHER YOUR ACTION WAS PROPER.

BECAUSE YOUR OFFICE ALLOWED NO PER DIEM FOR THE THREE DAYS IN QUESTION, MR. VANDERWALL NOW CLAIMS $1.80 AS BEING THE AMOUNT THAT HE PAID FOR EACH OF HIS OCCASIONAL MEALS -- NOT SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED -- WHICH HE SAYS HE HAD AN "OPTION" TO PAY FOR DURING THOSE THREE DAYS. YOUR LETTER AND THE ENCLOSED VOUCHERS DID NOT FULLY EXPLAIN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE LODGING AND MEALS WHICH WERE MADE AVAILABLE AT THE TEMPORARY DUTY POINT. HOWEVER, WE HAVE OBTAINED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM THE FINANCE OFFICER OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT AS INDICATED HEREINAFTER.

IT APPEARS THAT IN THE SUPPRESSION OF FIRES IN PUBLIC FOREST AND PARK AREAS (TIMBER, BRUSH OR GRASSLANDS) THE SLEEPING ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD THAT WILL BE NEEDED ON THE SITE ARE USUALLY PROVIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT AT NO DIRECT COST TO THE ASSIGNED PERSONNEL. THE FIREFIGHTING PERSONNEL NORMALLY ARE FURNISHED GOVERNMENT OWNED SLEEPING BAGS AND OCCASIONALLY SHELTER IF IT IS READILY ACCESSIBLE. THERE IS SELDOM ANY NEED FOR SHEETS OR BLANKETS AND NO PROVISION IS MADE FOR THEM.

IN SOME INSTANCES, COMMERCIAL LODGINGS ARE PROCURED BY THE AGENCY CONCERNED TO PROVIDE FACILITIES FOR BATHS AND LONGER REST PERIODS, WHEN NEEDED, GENERALLY FOLLOWING AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF WORK ON THE FIRE LINE. DEPENDING UPON THE KNOWN OR ANTICIPATED CIRCUMSTANCES AT THE TIME, SUCH COMMERCIAL FACILITIES USUALLY ARE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PROCURING AGENCY, OR IT MAY PROVIDE FOR DIRECT PAYMENT BY THE EMPLOYEE UTILIZING THE FACILITIES. WE ARE ALSO INFORMED BY THE FINANCE OFFICER THAT THE PER DIEM RATES AUTHORIZED IN BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT MANUAL, BLM 1382.32A9, TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE VARYING CIRCUMSTANCES.

IN THIS CASE A 16-MAN CREW WAS ASSIGNED, INCLUDING MR. VANDERWALL, TO FIRE SUPPRESSION ACTIVITIES DIRECTED BY THE FOREST SERVICE IN THE AREA OF DETROIT RANGER STATION. DURING PART OF THE TIME ALL PERSONNEL WERE GIVEN SHELTER AND BUNK WITH SLEEPING BAG WITHOUT CHARGE. AT OTHER TIMES IT IS REPORTED THAT A SLEEPING BAG WITHOUT SHELTER WAS PROVIDED AS CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANTED.

AS TO FOOD, DURING PART OF THE TIME THE CREW WERE FURNISHED MEALS AT THE CAMP AND ON THE FIRE LINE FOOD PACKAGES WERE FURNISHED AS NEEDED WITHOUT CHARGE. WE UNDERSTAND THE FIREFIGHTING ACTIVITY ON BUCK MOUNTAIN WAS CONTROLLED FROM THE DETROIT RANGER STATION NEAR WHICH THE FOREST SERVICE HAD ARRANGED WITH A LOCAL CAFE TO SERVE THE CREW PERSONNEL WHO, WHEN THEY WERE IN THAT AREA, NORMALLY WOULD SIGN THEIR MEAL TICKETS WHICH THE FOREST SERVICE PAID. THE CREW ALSO WERE INFORMED THAT EACH PERSON COULD PAY FOR HIS MEALS IF HE ELECTED NOT TO USE THE FOREST SERVICE'S ARRANGEMENT WITH THE CAFE. APPARENTLY THE FOREST SERVICE EXPRESSED NO RESTRICTIONS OR CONDITIONS REGARDING THE GRANTED "OPTION.'

CONCERNING THE PER DIEM RATES PRESCRIBED FOR FIREFIGHTERS WE HAVE BEEN REFERRED TO THE MANUAL OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, BLM 1382.32A9, B3 AND B5 IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

"9. FIRE FIGHTERS - REGULAR PERSONNEL. IN ORDER TO PROVIDE UNIFORM PER DIEM RATES, THE FOLLOWING WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL REGULAR EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO A FIRE CAMP IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR HEADQUARTERS.

"A. TRAVEL TO AND FROM FIRE CAMP. 12.00

"B. AT FIRE CAMP WITH MEALS AND LODGING

FURNISHED. 0.00

"C. AT FIRE CAMP WITH MEALS AND LODGING

NOT FURNISHED. 12.00

"D. AT FIRE CAMP WITH MEALS FURNISHED. 7.00

"E. AT FIRE CAMP WITH LODGING FURNISHED. 5.00

"3. DEDUCTIONS FOR MEALS AND LODGING. ALL RATES, EXCEPT AS PRESCRIBED IN 1382.32A9 AND 1382.32A10 SHALL BE SUBJECT TO A DEDUCTION OF 15 PERCENT FOR EACH MEAL, AND 30 PERCENT FOR EACH LODGING FURNISHED OR MADE AVAILABLE BY THE GOVERNMENT.

"5. LESSER RATES. NOTHING IN THESE REGULATIONS IS TO BE INTERPRETED AS RELAXING THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OFFICIALS DESIGNATED TO PRESCRIBE RATES, WITHIN THE MAXIMUMS HEREIN ESTABLISHED * * *. THE DESIGNATED OFFICIALS, WITHIN THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS OF AUTHORITY, SHALL PRESCRIBE LESSER RATES WHERE TO THEIR SATISFACTION LESSER RATES ARE WARRANTED. SUCH RATES SHALL BE ESTABLISHED AT AMOUNTS WHICH REPRESENT NEITHER AN INADEQUATE NOR EXCESSIVE REIMBURSEMENT BUT WHICH WILL FAIRLY AND ADEQUATELY REIMBURSE TRAVELERS ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS FOR THE NECESSARY ATTENDANT EXPENSES OF TRAVEL.

"A. ALL REDUCED PER DIEM RATES SHALL BE DIVISIBLE BY FOUR OR FIVE, WITHOUT REMAINDER.

"B. WHEN AN EMPLOYEE'S WORK ASSIGNMENT IS IN AN ISOLATED AREA, SUCH AS AT A CAMP OR WORK SITE, AND WHEN OTHERWISE OVER A PROLONGED PERIOD IT IS POSSIBLE TO OBTAIN LOW-COST MEALS OR LODGING, THE AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL SHALL APPROVE ONLY SUCH PER DIEM AS IS JUSTIFIED UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.'

THE FOREGOING REGULATIONS SEEM TO CONTEMPLATE THAT MEALS WILL BE FURNISHED FOR A FULL DAY OR ELSE WILL BE PURCHASED BY THE FIREFIGHTER FOR A FULL DAY, THERE BEING NO PROVISION FOR A REDUCTION IN PER DIEM BECAUSE OF THE PURCHASE OF LESS THAN THE NORMAL 3 MEALS EACH DAY. MOREOVER, IT IS REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT WHEN THE PER DIEM RATES WERE FIXED THE TERM "LODGING" WAS INTENDED TO INCLUDE ANY TYPE OF SHELTER -- INCLUDING SLEEPING BAGS FURNISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT -- IRRESPECTIVE OF BLANKETS AND BEDDING. THIS WOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH THE GENERAL CONCEPT OF AUTHORIZING PER DIEM ONLY TO THE EXTENT OF COVERING THE NECESSARY EXPENSES OF THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED. WE NOTE HERE THAT PERHAPS THE REGULATIONS SHOULD NOT INCLUDE ANY AMOUNT FOR LODGING IN THE PER DIEM RATE UNLESS COMMERCIAL LODGING IS UTILIZED.

IN LINE WITH THE FOREGOING AND IN VIEW OF THE PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES HERE INVOLVED OUR VIEW IS THAT YOUR ACTION IN DEDUCTING THE $7 FOR EACH OF THE DAYS IN QUESTION WAS CORRECT. OF COURSE THAT VIEW IS PREDICATED ON BOTH MEALS AND LODGING BEING FURNISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT. THEREFORE, THE AMOUNTS ACTUALLY PAID BY MR. VANDERWALL FOR MEALS SHOULD BE REFUNDED.

THE VOUCHERS ENCLOSED WITH YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 10, 1967, ARE RETURNED HEREWITH FOR HANDLING IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE. WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY MR. VANDERWALL ON HIS ORIGINAL VOUCHER SHOWED THAT HE WAS AT A FIRE CAMP ON AUGUST 30, 31 AND SEPTEMBER 1, 1967, WHEREAS ON THE SUPPLEMENTAL VOUCHER HE INDICATES HE WAS AT THE DETROIT RANGER STATION FROM AUGUST 30 TO SEPTEMBER 2, 1967.