B-243436.2, May 18, 1992

B-243436.2: May 18, 1992

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Although members are entitled to ship Military Affiliated Radio System equipment as professional equipment without charge to their authorized weight allowances. We will not question the Navy's determination. The balance was properly added to the weight of his household goods. He is liable for the costs of shipping the excess weight. Shipment of MARS Equipment: We have been asked to settle a claim which arose from a shipment of household goods and professional equipment by Lieutenant Joseph S. Lieutenant Nickerson is liable for excess weight charges due on the shipment. He claims that all the MARS equipment should have been classified as professional equipment and shipped at government expense without charge to his weight allowance for household goods.

B-243436.2, May 18, 1992

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Relocation Household goods - Weight restrictions - Liability Computation DIGEST: A member shipped a large amount of radio equipment with his household goods. Although members are entitled to ship Military Affiliated Radio System equipment as professional equipment without charge to their authorized weight allowances, the Navy classified only 4,000 pounds of his equipment as professional. In the absence of clear error, we will not question the Navy's determination. The balance was properly added to the weight of his household goods, which then exceeded his weight allowance. He is liable for the costs of shipping the excess weight.

Lieutenant Joseph S. Nickerson, USN (Retired)-- Shipment of MARS Equipment:

We have been asked to settle a claim which arose from a shipment of household goods and professional equipment by Lieutenant Joseph S. Nickerson, USN (Retired). /1/ For the reasons presented below, Lieutenant Nickerson is liable for excess weight charges due on the shipment.

Lieutenant Nickerson retired from the Navy on August 31, 1987. shipped 44,880 pounds of personal effects, including a large amount of Military Affiliated Radio System (MARS) equipment, to his home of selection. The DD Form 1299 (Application for shipment and storage of personal property) executed by the transportation officer and signed by Lieutenant Nickerson estimated that 4,000 pounds of the shipment would be professional equipment. Upon audit of the shipment, the Navy allowed shipment of 4,000 pounds of the equipment as professional MARS equipment and charged the rest against his authorized weight allowance of 11,000 pounds, resulting in excess gross weight of 28,657 pounds, for which Lieutenant Nickerson has been charged. He claims that all the MARS equipment should have been classified as professional equipment and shipped at government expense without charge to his weight allowance for household goods.

Under the Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR), volume 1, para. U5310- C, a member is entitled to transportation of professional books, papers and equipment which meet certain requirements without charge to his weight allowance for household goods. Professional equipment, as defined in Appendix A of the JFTR, includes "communication equipment used by members in association with the MARS." It does not include office, household or shop fixtures or furniture even though such items might be used in connection with the professional equipment.

Military members who own radio units to send and receive messages through the MARS are authorized transportation of that equipment as professional equipment. Apparently at one time regulations of the respective services and volume 1, of the Joint Travel Regulation (1 JTR) limited the weight of MARS equipment to 3,000 pounds. 1 JTR para. M8000-3 (1968).

In our decision Lieutenant Colonel Stanley M. Plies, USAF, B-196994, May 9, 1980, we dealt with a member who upon permanent change of station shipped certain items as professional equipment which were later determined not to qualify as professional equipment. The weight of those items was added to that of his household goods, and the member was liable for the resulting excess weight charges. In that decision we stated:

"The question of whether and to what extent authorized weights have been exceeded in the shipment of household effects, and whether or not particular items may be classified as professional material necessary in the performance of a member's duty are considered to be matters primarily for administrative determination, and we ordinarily do not question an administrative determination in that regard in the absence of evidence showing it to be clearly in error."

While there is no longer a weight limit on MARS equipment in the regulation, it appears that the JFTR's definition of MARS equipment is meant to cover a member's personal unit. It is not intended to cover the tall steel towers and other sophisticated equipment which Lieutenant Nickerson shipped. Furthermore, his inventory lists as professional equipment items such as furniture which under the JFTR clearly may not be shipped as professional equipment. Many other items such as tools and toolboxes would appear to be excluded as well.

Accordingly, since the Navy in their audit deemed the 4,000 pounds of equipment listed on the application to be a reasonable amount of MARS equipment to be shipped, we will not disturb that determination. It is our view Lieutenant Nickerson may be charged for the cost of shipping household goods in excess of his weight allowance, and his claim is therefore denied. In any event we suggest that regulations be amended to clarify a member's entitlements in such cases.

/1/ The question was presented by the Commanding Officer, Navy Material Transportation Office; and the Department of Defense Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee has assigned Control No. 91-4 to the request.