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The Coast Guard requested a decision on: (1) the legality of using appropriated funds to pay membership fees in private organizations; and (2) whether the payment of the fees at the beginning of the period of membership would violate the advance-payment prohibition. GAO held that: (1) the use of appropriated funds to pay federal employees' membership dues in a society or association is permissible if the membership is in the name of an agency rather than an individual; (2) an agency may obtain a membership in a private organization if the membership would be of primary benefit to it and necessary to carry out its statutory functions; and (3) the advance-payment prohibition was not applicable in this case. Accordingly, if the Coast Guard determines that the memberships are necessary to fulfill its statutory mission, the use of appropriated funds to purchase the the memberships and the payment of the fees at the beginning of the membership period would be proper.

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