An advance decision was requested as to whether it would be legal to pay a claim for reimbursement of transportation expenses incurred by a former civilian employee of the Department of Defense (DOD) for a flight on a foreign flag air carrier. The employee was hired in the United States, under a 2-year transportation agreement, for employment as a teacher by the DOD Office of Dependents Schools (ODS). The employee submitted her resignation and shortly after the school year began making plans to depart on a foreign carrier. However, the principal of her school, after consultation with a physician and other employees, decided that the best interests of both the employee and the Government would be served if she would depart for the United States as soon as possible since she was experiencing severe problems of a psychological nature. The principal was aware of the fact that employees who elect to return to the United States prior to the expiration of their transportation agreement do so at their own expense. The question of flying an American flag carrier was thus not of special concern. His primary concern was in arranging the safe and expeditious departure of the employee. In this regard, the official airline guide showed that three U.S. air carrier connecting flights were available, but would involve changing to different airlines in two locations for travel to the United States. Subsequently, the Director of ODS certified, on behalf of DOD, that it was necessary and in the best interests of the employee to use the foreign flight. Accordingly, a retroactive travel order was prepared, and the usual requirement was waived that employees who elect to return to the United States prior to the expiration of their tour of duty do so at their own expense. The determination that a U.S. air carrier can neither serve an agency's transportation needs nor accomplish its mission is to be made by the agency and will not be questioned by GAO unless it is arbitrary or capricious. GAO believed that, in addition to the principal's statement, certification by the Director of ODS constitutes satisfactory proof of the necessity of the use of a foreign air carrier. Accordingly, the voucher should be certified for payment.
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