Travel Purpose Identifiers

» Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Federal Government spending is a major topic in the news these days.  Managing resources efficiently and responsibly is among the federal financial manager top priorities. Congressional reporting requirements ensure agencies’ account for their spending activity in fulfillment of their missions.   Focus is frequently on an agency’s travel program.  What types of travel does an agency perform using federal funds?  Is the type of travel and cost necessary to accomplish the agency’s mission?  To answer these questions the federal government needs standardized reporting criteria for all its agencies.

In the mid-1970s, the federal government implemented the use of travel purpose identifiers to categorize the types of travel conducted by its agencies.  Congress could then obtain the information needed to oversee the use of federal funds for travel.  Incorporated into Chapter 301 of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR)  the following travel purpose identifiers were added as Appendix C:  Site Visit; Information Meeting; Training Attendance; Speech or Presentation; Conference Attendance; Relocation; and Entitlement Travel.

Over time these travel purpose identifiers became inadequate in identifying the complexity of modern travel needs. In response to these changes the General Services Administration (GSA) established the Travel Purpose Identifier Focus Group to review and develop a common list.  This team recommended six new identifiers asserting the following benefits:

  • Standardize identifiers across the Government;
  • Provide the ability to report travel spending by purpose;
  • Permit the highlighting of special travel requirements in agency budgets and missions;
  • Allow agencies to develop mission-specific sub-identifiers; and
  • Provide greater opportunity to develop standardized reports Government wide.

To enhance classification of travel cost, effective August 20, 2009, the following updated list of travel purpose identifiers along with their descriptions replaced the previous travel purpose identifiers in Appendix C of Chapter 301 – Standard Data Elements for Federal Travel

Employee Emergency

Travel related to an unexpected occurrence/event or injury/illness that affects the employee personally and/or directly that requires immediate action/attention. Examples: Traveler is incapacitated by illness or injury, death or serious illness of a family member (as defined in §300-3.1 or §301-30.2), or catastrophic occurrence or impending disaster that directly affects the employee’s home. Emergency travel also includes travel for medical care while employee is TDY away from the official station (Part 301-30), death of an employee/immediate family member when performing official duties away from the official station or home of record (Part 303-70), medical attendant transportation (Part 301-30), assistance travel for an employee with special needs (Part 301-13), as well as travel for threatened law enforcement/investigative employees (Part 301-31).

Mission (Operational)

Travel to a particular site in order to perform operational or managerial activities. Travel to attend a meeting to discuss general agency operations, review status reports, or discuss topics of general interest. Examples: Employee’s day-to-day operational or managerial activities, as defined by the agency, to include, but not be limited to: hearings, site visit, information meeting, inspections, audits, investigations, and examinations.

Special Agency Mission

Travel to carry out a special agency mission and/or perform a task outside the agency’s normal course of day-to-day business activities that is unique or distinctive. These the agency annual special missions are defined by the head of agency and are normally not programmed in funding authorization. Examples: These agency-defined special missions may include details, security missions, and agency emergency response/recovery such as civil, natural disasters, evacuation, catastrophic events, technical assistance, evaluations or assessments.

Conference – Other than Training

Travel performed in connection with a prearranged meeting, retreat, convention, seminar, or symposium for consultation or exchange of information or discussion. Agencies have to distinguish between conference and training attendance and use the appropriate identifier (see Training below). Examples: To participate in a planned program as a speaker/panelist or other form of presentation, host, planner, or others designated to oversee the conference or attendance with no formal role, or as an exhibitor.


Travel in conjunction with educational activities to become proficient or qualified in one or more areas of responsibility. 5 USC 4101(4) states that “‘training’ means the process of providing for and making available to an employee, and placing or enrolling the employee in a planned, prepared, and coordinated program, course, curriculum, subject, system, or routine of instruction or education, in scientific, professional, technical, mechanical, trade, clerical, fiscal, administrative, or other fields which will improve individual and organizational performance in scientific, professional, technical, mechanical, trade, clerical, fiscal, administrative, or other fields which will improve individual and organizational performance and assist in achieving the agency’s mission and performance goals.” The term “conference” may also apply to training activities that are considered to be conferences under 5 CFR 410.404, which states that “agencies may sponsor an employee’s attendance at a conference as a developmental assignment under section 4110 of title 5, United States Code, when:

  1. The announced purpose of the conference is educational or instructional;
  2. More than half of the time is scheduled for a planned, organized exchange of information between presenters and audience which meets the definition of training in section 4101 of title 5, United States Code;
  3. The content of the conference is germane to improving individual and/or organizational performance, and
  4. Development benefits will be derived through the employee’s attendance.” Agencies have to distinguish between conference and training attendance and use the appropriate identifier (see Conference—Other Than Training above). Examples: Job required training, Internships, Intergovernmental Personnel Act, and forums.


Travel performed in connection with a transfer from one official station to another for employees/immediate family members, as applicable. Examples: Permanent change of station (PCS) moves for domestic and international transferees/new appointees, tour renewal, temporary change of station (TCS), and last move home.

Implementation of the updated travel purpose identifiers gives agencies the ability to capture and report their travel activity.  The federal financial manager can monitor their agency’s travel spending and its relevancy in executing their mission. They can evaluate travel programs and take suitable actions to ensure their agencies’ are productively and appropriately administering the use of federal fund.  As stewards of federal funds they are entrusted by taxpayers to be diligent in the use of those funds.

By Regina Potter

The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.

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