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A decision was requested as to whether air traffic control trainees are entitled to utilize privately owned vehicles for travel purposes while attending training at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy. A decision was appealed which denied such a request relying on a former GAO decision which held that identically situated employees could not be treated differently for travel expense purposes. To make determinations regarding travel entitlements on the basis of nontravel related items, such as employees' union membership, is clearly an arbitrary exercise of discretion. However, an agency may continue to include a requirement that an employee be subject to frequent assignment to recurring training as a condition for the allowance of the utilization of privately owned vehicles for travel to training centers. In the present case, the employees were in a different situation than the employees who were subject to the previous FAA ruling. Air traffic control trainees are almost exclusively new hires who do not perform training at the FAA Academy on a recurring basis, and FAA has retained its discretion to determine that travel by the air traffic control trainees to the FAA Academy by privately owned vehicle is not advantageous to the Government. The determination of whether the use of a privately owned vehicle is of advantage to the Government is primarily the responsibility of the agency concerned and will not generally be questioned by GAO. The protester did not prove that the determination of the agency was faulty or offer additional evidence that the agency's position was arbitrary or capricious. Accordingly, GAO would not disturb the agency's findings in this matter.

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