Travel and Government Quarters

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» Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Government agencies are faced with reduced budgets in recent years due to the economy. At our agency, employees have been asked to submit suggestions to improve processes and save money during this time of limited resources. Several suggestions have been submitted that relate to Government travel. One suggestion that was submitted was that the agency should require that Government quarters be used because they are much less expensive than commercial lodging. This paper provides an overview of what the regulations state about the requirements to use Government quarters.

In accordance with the Department of Defense (DoD) Financial Management Regulation (FMR) Volume 9, Chapter 5, the orders for travelers must specify the actual TDY duty location For example, if a traveler is going TDY to Ft. Bliss, TX, the travel orders must explicitly state “Ft. Bliss, TX”, not El Paso, TX. The Approving Official (AO) should ensure that the correct TDY location is entered before approving the traveler’s orders in the Defense Travel System (DTS) because currently there is no systematic fix or control.

All travelers are encouraged to use Government quarters if available when on orders to a U.S. Installation as opposed to a geographic location like a town or city. An agency may direct uniformed members to do so, provided they are TDY to a U.S. installation (example: TDY to Ft. Sam Houston), not to a city (TDY to San Antonio, TX), and the Government quarters are on the U.S. installation to which the traveler was sent TDY. The Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) requires uniformed service members on orders to a U.S. Installation to check for Government quarters availability at the site to which they are temporarily assigned.

The Joint Travel Regulation (JTR) prohibits civilian employees from being directed to use Government quarters. Also, civilian employees lodging reimbursement cannot be limited to the Government quarters cost (Comp. Gen. 626 (1965)). A DoD civilian employee is not required to check Government quarters availability in the following circumstances:
• When TDY is at other than a U.S. installation.
• When an AO determines Government quarters use would adversely affect mission performance NOTE: An employee in a Senior Level (SL) position, Scientific and Professional (ST) position and an SES employee (including individuals described under 5 USC 5703) determine their own quarters availability.
• During en route travel periods.
• For TDY/delay of less than 24 hours at one location.

DTS cannot be used to reserve Government quarters, only to record the cost of the room. To reserve military lodging, the traveler must contact Commercial Travel Office (CTO) or the lodging facility directly to make the arrangements and determine the lodging cost. The traveler must enter the lodging cost in the DTS authorization on the Per Diem Entitlements screen accessed through the Expenses tab in the main navigation bar. If a military traveler removes the check mark for Quarters Available at a military location with military quarters available while creating an authorization in DTS, DTS will require that the traveler justify why the military quarters were not used, and the AO should ensure that an adequate justification is entered.

When Government quarters are available on the U.S. installation to which the employee is TDY, the proper authority may prescribe a reduced per diem rate based on the Government quarters cost and potentially other reduced costs. Such authority must be requested and authorized in advance of the travel dates for which the reduction is desired. A fixed per diem may not exceed the locality per diem rates prescribed for the locality concerned. (JTR, par. C4550.) The AO may direct adequate available Government quarters use for a uniformed member on a U.S. installation only if the uniformed member is TDY to that U.S. installation. If an agency directs use of Government quarters, but a uniformed traveler uses other lodging, the uniformed traveler may only be reimbursed up to the Government quarters’ cost unless the voucher or ‘should-cost’ reflects a quarters non-availability number ((44 Comp. Gen. 626 (1965)).

When the traveler stays in commercial lodging if Government quarters are not available, the agency must authorize commercial lodging for the traveler. The traveler is reimbursed for the single occupancy rate, up to the maximum per diem rate for the TDY or stopover point if travel is over several days. When Government quarters are not available at the TDY station, the TDY locality per diem rate or the Actual Expense Allowance (AEA) based on that locality per diem rate applies.
Per diem cannot be limited based on the presence of ‘nearby’ Government quarters, such as quarters not on the U.S. installation to which the member is assigned TDY, but another ‘nearby’ U.S. installation or other uniformed facility.
It appears that enforcement of this policy is primarily dependent on the understanding and due diligence of the AO when reviewing travel orders in DTS. While DTS does have some systematic controls, this is primarily an issue of proper oversight. To increase awareness of the regulations at our agency, our office created a digital sign to be posted on electronic message boards located throughout the complex, and we emphasize this information in our AO training sessions. Increasing awareness of this requirement should result in compliance with these regulations.

References
• Government Quarters Frequently Asked Questions, Defense Travel Management Office (https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/faqgovqtr.cfm)
• JTR Ch 1: DoD Employee Travel Administration, Part B: Conditions/Factors, C1055 GOV’T QTRS USE/AVAILABILITY
• JFTR Ch 1: General, Part A: Applicability & General Information, U1045 GOV’T QTRS USE/AVAILABILITY
• Quarters reservations website — http://www.dodlodging.net.
• DoD FMR

K. Barnoski, 2012. Disclaimer: The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.

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