Liability for Damage Resulting From Use of One Agency's Real Property by Another

B-194861: Nov 20, 1979

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The Department of the Army asked whether funds were available to reimburse the Forest Service for the cost of restoration of property it damaged during training exercises. The Army felt that Congress had sufficiently demonstrated that it intended to permit such interdepartmental reimbursements, and quoted language was apparently put in a Senate Report on appropriations to accomplish this. However, subsequent reports have not repeated this intent. The longstanding general rule which applies to such matters, the interdepartmental waiver doctrine, holds that in the absence of statutory authority one executive department may not be reimbursed for real property damaged by another executive department. The doctrine is based upon the premise that ownership of property is in the Government and not in a particular department. GAO held that, since there was no specific statutory authority permitting exception to the general rule, reimbursement was not allowable.