Military Aircraft:

Policies on Government Officials' Use of 89th Military Airlift Wing Aircraft

NSIAD-92-133: Published: Apr 9, 1992. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the policies governing the use of military aircraft from the Air Force's 89th Military Airlift Wing by executive branch officials and members of Congress, focusing on whether such policies: (1) are consistent and uniform for both branches; (2) adequately prevent abuse; and (3) include sufficient reimbursement provisions and sufficient safeguards to ensure compliance.

GAO found that: (1) although the policies permit the use of 89th Wing aircraft for official business, they do not define official business or the circumstances in which use of the aircraft would be inappropriate; (2) several executive branch officials have special authorization to use government aircraft whenever they travel by air; (3) although a general policy stating that the use of government aircraft should be restricted to situations where it is cost-effective or where commercial aircraft services cannot meet travel requirements, the policies do not guide or restrict officials' aircraft travel; (4) travellers can readily assert that commercial services are unavailable, and most agencies do not reimburse the Air Force for aircraft use; (5) although regulations require the Air Force to justify and document each use of the aircraft, it does not independently verify that officials requesting use of the aircraft comply with the policies; and (6) although the Department of Defense (DOD) has the discretion to permit officials' spouses or dependents to travel without reimbursement, no one independently verifies that all nonofficial passengers that are required to reimburse the government for their travel costs do so at the appropriate rates.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of September 1995, OCR has not seen any indication that Congress intends to address this issue.

    Matter: Congress should adopt policies for the travel on 89th Wing aircraft by legislative branch officials.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On February 10, 1993, the President signed a policy document entitled "Restricted Use of Government Aircraft," which addresses many aspects of the recommendation. DOD issued a new policy on its officials' use of government aircraft in June 1994. DOD new policy provides specific guidance on documenting the 89th wing's flights and on how travelers should determine if commercial services are available. The recommendation, as it pertains to DOD, should be closed.

    Recommendation: To provide better assurance that the 89th Wing's assets are being used appropriately and consistently, the Secretary of Defense, appropriate White House officials, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should revise the policies that address executive branch officials' use of the 89th Wing aircraft, including OMB Circular A-126. The revised executive branch policy and the new congressional policy should: (1) clearly define key terms such as official business and describe how, when, by whom, and for what purposes the 89th Wing aircraft should be used, or alternatively, those purposes for which the 89th Wing should not be used; (2) provide specific guidance on how travelers should determine whether commercial aircraft services are available; (3) provide explicit guidance as to when and how travelers are to make cost comparisons and when it may be permissible not to use the most cost-effective transportation alternative; (4) clearly identify the circumstances under which both official and nonofficial travelers should reimburse the government for their travel and the appropriate amount to be reimbursed; and (5) clearly specify the extent to which compliance with each of those policies should be documented and controlled, where that documentation should be retained, and that it should be retained for at least 2 years after the date of the trip.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on the recommendation and discussions with OMB officials, OMB revised Circular A-126. The revised circular does not fully address all of the specifics of the recommendation, but does so to a large extent. Therefore, the recommendation, as it pertains to OMB, should be closed.

    Recommendation: To provide better assurance that the 89th Wing's assets are being used appropriately and consistently, the Secretary of Defense, appropriate White House officials, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should revise the policies that address executive branch officials' use of the 89th Wing aircraft, including OMB Circular A-126. The revised executive branch policy and the new congressional policy should: (1) clearly define key terms such as official business and describe how, when, by whom, and for what purposes the 89th Wing aircraft should be used, or alternatively, those purposes for which the 89th Wing should not be used; (2) provide specific guidance on how travelers should determine whether commercial aircraft services are available; (3) provide explicit guidance as to when and how travelers are to make cost comparisons and when it may be permissible not to use the most cost-effective transportation alternative; (4) clearly identify the circumstances under which both official and nonofficial travelers should reimburse the government for their travel and the appropriate amount to be reimbursed; and (5) clearly specify the extent to which compliance with each of those policies should be documented and controlled, where that documentation should be retained, and that it should be retained for at least 2 years after the date of the trip.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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