B-153571, MAY 4, 1964

B-153571: May 4, 1964

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REQUESTED THAT WE AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT TO CONTINUE TO PAY PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE TO CERTAIN CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES WHO ARE INDEFINITELY ASSIGNED TO DUTY ON THE CALIFORNIA OFFSHORE ISLANDS WHILE THEY ARE WORKING ON SUCH ISLANDS. MOST OF THE EMPLOYEES INVOLVED ARE EMPLOYED BY THE PACIFIC MISSILE RANGE. THEY DO NOT PERFORM THEIR DUTIES AT THOSE INSTALLATIONS BUT ARE ASSIGNED TO WORK ON THE ISLANDS OF SAN CLEMENTE. THE ISLANDS ARE BARREN AND NOT SUITABLE FOR NORMAL HABITATION SO THE EMPLOYEES USUALLY MAINTAIN HOMES ON THE MAINLAND UTILIZING GOVERNMENT-FURNISHED FACILITIES WHILE ON DUTY ON THE ISLANDS. TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN THE ISLANDS AND THE MAINLAND IS FURNISHED BY THE NAVY. ACCORDING TO CURRENT PRACTICE ALL EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO WORK ON THE ISLANDS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS WHILE ON THE ISLANDS AND ARE PAID PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AT THE RATE OF $6.

B-153571, MAY 4, 1964

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY:

BY LETTER OF FEBRUARY 20, 1964, REFERENCE OIR 250:MJS, THE CHIEF OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, REQUESTED THAT WE AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT TO CONTINUE TO PAY PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE TO CERTAIN CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES WHO ARE INDEFINITELY ASSIGNED TO DUTY ON THE CALIFORNIA OFFSHORE ISLANDS WHILE THEY ARE WORKING ON SUCH ISLANDS.

MOST OF THE EMPLOYEES INVOLVED ARE EMPLOYED BY THE PACIFIC MISSILE RANGE, POINT MUGU, CALIFORNIA, THE NAVAL ORDNANCE TEST STATION, CHINA LAKE, CALIFORNIA, AND THE NAVAL AIR STATION, NORTH ISLAND, CALIFORNIA. HOWEVER, THEY DO NOT PERFORM THEIR DUTIES AT THOSE INSTALLATIONS BUT ARE ASSIGNED TO WORK ON THE ISLANDS OF SAN CLEMENTE, SAN NICOLAS, SANTA CRUZ AND SIMILAR ISLANDS LOCATED SOME DISTANCE OFF THE COAST OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. THE ISLANDS ARE BARREN AND NOT SUITABLE FOR NORMAL HABITATION SO THE EMPLOYEES USUALLY MAINTAIN HOMES ON THE MAINLAND UTILIZING GOVERNMENT-FURNISHED FACILITIES WHILE ON DUTY ON THE ISLANDS. TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN THE ISLANDS AND THE MAINLAND IS FURNISHED BY THE NAVY, NORMALLY AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE EMPLOYEES' ASSIGNED WORKWEEK, COMMERCIAL TRANSPORTATION NOT BEING AVAILABLE.

ACCORDING TO CURRENT PRACTICE ALL EMPLOYEES ASSIGNED TO WORK ON THE ISLANDS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS WHILE ON THE ISLANDS AND ARE PAID PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AT THE RATE OF $6, LESS $1PER DAY FOR LODGINGS AND $2.50 PER DAY FOR MEALS FURNISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT. OUR OFFICE QUESTIONED THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM TO THOSE EMPLOYEES WHO WERE ASSIGNED TO PERMANENT DUTY ON THE ISLANDS ON THE BASIS THAT PER DIEM AS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 3 OF THE TRAVEL EXPENSE ACT OF 1949, APPROVED JUNE 9, 1949, CH. 185, 63 STAT. 166, AS AMENDED, 5 U.S.C. 836, MAY BE PAID ONLY WHEN AN EMPLOYEE IS AWAY FROM HIS DESIGNATED POST OF DUTY, THAT IS, HIS PERMANENT DUTY STATION. OUR OFFICE HAS CONSISTENTLY HELD THAT THE AUTHORITY OF THE DEPARTMENT TO DESIGNATE AN EMPLOYEE'S POST OF DUTY INCLUDES ONLY THE AUTHORITY TO DESIGNATE THE PLACE AT WHICH THE EMPLOYEE PERFORMS THE GREATER PART OF HIS WORK AND DOES NOT INCLUDE AUTHORITY TO DESIGNATE A CERTAIN LOCATION AS AN EMPLOYEE'S DUTY STATION WITHOUT REGARD TO THAT FACTOR FOR THE PURPOSE OF PAYING HIM A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE IN ADDITION TO HIS REGULAR COMPENSATION. 31 COMP. GEN. 289; 32 ID. 87.

SINCE THOSE EMPLOYEES PERMANENTLY ASSIGNED TO A PARTICULAR ISLAND PERFORM THE GREATER PART, IF NOT ALL, OF THEIR WORK ON THE ISLAND IT FOLLOWS THAT THEIR PERMANENT DUTY STATION MAY NOT BE DESIGNATED ELSEWHERE AND THAT THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR DUTY ON SUCH ISLAND.

ALTHOUGH ACTION TO COLLECT DEBTS DUE THE UNITED STATES HAS ON OCCASION BEEN HELD IN ABEYANCE PENDING ACTION BY THE CONGRESS ON A BILL TO PROVIDE LEGISLATIVE RELIEF FROM SUCH DEBT WE ARE WITHOUT AUTHORITY TO PERMIT THE CONTINUATION OF UNAUTHORIZED AND ILLEGAL PAYMENTS PENDING ACTION BY THE CONGRESS ON LEGISLATION AUTHORIZING SUCH PAYMENTS.

FOR THE REASONS STATED PAYMENT OF PER DIEM UNDER SECTION 3 OF THE TRAVEL EXPENSE ACT OF 1949 TO DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES WHO PERFORM THE BULK OF THEIR DUTIES ON THE CALIFORNIA OFFSHORE ISLANDS SHOULD BE DISCONTINUED IMMEDIATELY. MOREOVER, TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES WE WILL BE REQUIRED TO ISSUE EXCEPTIONS AND INSIST UPON COLLECTION OF THE OVERPAYMENTS IN THESE CASES WHERE NECESSARY.

WE NOTE THAT THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE TRAVEL EXPENSE ACT OF 1949, ATTACHED TO THE LETTER OF THE CHIEF OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, IS NOT WORDED SO AS TO GRANT RELIEF FOR ANY PAST PAYMENTS OF THE PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE.

IF A BILL IS INTRODUCED IN THE CONGRESS TO GRANT RELIEF FOR PAST AS WELL AS TO AUTHORIZE FUTURE PAYMENTS OF PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE, WE WOULD GIVE CONSIDERATION TO AN AGENCY OR CONGRESSIONAL REQUEST TO DEFER COLLECTION PROCEEDINGS FOR A REASONABLE TIME TO PERMIT CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON SUCH LEGISLATION.

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