Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'
We all know that a central key to a large protocol event is clean, reliable, safe transportation support. But transportation support must conform to the authorized use of government vehicles. Air Force Instruction 24-301, Chapter 3, outlines the policy for official use of government vehicles. Besides the importance of handling funds, no other aspect of a protocol event gets more visibility than the use of government vehicles. It's impossible to hide a bus, a minivan, or a sedan from a protocol event, and in some cases in which the use of government vehicles is authorized, the perception of impropriety will cause concern and raise the eyebrows of the taxpayers. As protocol officials, we must do our best to understand the rules, keep perceptions of impropriety to a minimum, and use government transportation for the purposes in which they were designed.
Associated with the use of government vehicles for protocol events, the protocol official must also be familiar with the policy on spouse and dependent travel. This includes spouse travel on military aircraft as well as in staff cars or military buses.
We must be ever aware of and sensitive to public perceptions regarding travel and the use of vehicles by armed forces senior leaders and their families. Many people outside the military (and even some inside) view the senior leadership and their families as living a gold-plated lifestyle at the taxpayers' expense, both on and off the job. This perception his reinforced by sensation-seeking individuals who highlight occasional, embarrassing episodes and portray them as typical, widespread behavior. We probably would not have the image problem we do if there had not been actual cases of wrongdoing, either inadvertent or not. Travel by military aircraft is typically reported as an abuse, on the assumption that commercial air is always less costly. Misuse of government vehicles is also high on the list, as well as bad press on space available travel on military aircraft and transporting personal property when returning from overseas on TDY. In these days of shrinking budgets, we must insure that we do not promote or condone any act which cannot meet the test of full public scrutiny. In deciding whether a particular transportation or travel action is appropriate, after checking the Air Force Instruction and your vehicle operations officer, ask yourself a question: Can I stand to read about it on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper? If the answer is "yes," the action is most likely appropriate. But if the answer is "no," the action probably should not be pursued. Your base/command LGT office can provide further information.
USE OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES
The primary rule regarding the use of government vehicles is not to use them for personal reasons, personal business, personal convenience or pleasure at any time. Also, it is a violation to use government vehicles to conduct personal business in conjunction with official duties. To do so is a violation of public law. This is the area that potentially can inadvertently trap.
The following list are authorized uses of government vehicles, in accordance with AFI 24-301:
- Use government vehicles for official purposes. When public transportation is unavailable or impractical, you may use government vehicles to obtain meals, etc., to foster the continued performance of government business
- Commanders may authorize the use of government vehicles to those not otherwise entitled in times of danger to public health or safety is of imminent seriousness
- Authorized for personnel officially taking part in public ceremonies, etc.
- Authorized to transport civilian organizations to military installations to take part in base activities when officially invited
- Authorized for active duty personnel to or from Air Force scheduled appointments
- Personnel conducting official off base business may use government vehicles to off-base eating establishments in the vicinity of the work site when returning to base is not cost effective
The following list are unauthorized uses of government vehicles in accordance with AFI 24-301.
- Under certain conditions, transportation to on base dining facilities
- Exclusive assignment of vehicles to one official
- For personal social engagements or personal business
- Do not provide vehicle support to dependents when accompanying a member on official business at government expense. Spouses may travel with the member only when there is an unquestionable official requirement for the spouse to actually participate in the function. When separated during these official functions, provide the spouse the same transportation as the member.
- Do not provide government vehicles for personal or government directed household goods moves.
- Unless incident to the performance of official duty, do not park government vehicles at commissaries, base exchanges, or NAF activities unless approved in other sections of the AFI.
When the above guidance does not specifically fit a request for transportation support, use the following factors when making official use determinations:
- Is the purpose of the trip in support of the Air Force mission?
- Does the request have the potential to create an unfavorable perception or cause public criticism?
- Will the request impact on mission requirements?
- Is commercial or DoD scheduled transportation available? The Air Force does not provide transportation that competes with commercial services.
- Is the request for an event of official business? Social outings or shopping trips in conjunction with an official program do not constitute official business.
TRAVEL BY DEPENDENTS ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS
The governing DoD policy on dependent travel is contained in a Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum, dated November 1989. That policy is still in effect. The following three point papers prepared by HQ USAF/LGT summarize the rules and procedures regarding different aspects of spouse travel. These are strictly adhered to by senior members of Headquarters United States Air Force and equally apply to all members in the field. If you have questions, it's best to contact your vehicle control officer or transportation officer.
SPOUSE TRAVEL RULES AND PROCEDURES
- To define the criteria, approval authority, and procedures governing spouse travel on DoD and commercial aircraft.
- Spouse travel, in this context, means travel of the spouse with, and as an adjunct to, the sponsor (spouses may be authorized to travel in their own right, and as such, are not covered by the same policy as those spouses traveling with their sponsor. See AF/LGTT point paper "Spouse Travel in Special Status", dated 14 February 1991)
- DoD requires spouse travel to satisfy two criteria -- the travel must be an unquestionable official requirement, and the spouse must actually participate in the event requiring the travel (DEPSECDEF Memorandum, 11 November 1989)
- DoD personnel in VIP Code 2 (the Secretary of Defense, Service Secretaries, Principal Under Secretaries, and four-star general officers) may approve travel of their spouses, based on meeting the above criteria
- Incumbent approval for spouse travel is also authorized for certain three-star general officers serving in designated overseas billets
- There are currently two such billets within the Air Force:
- COMUSJAPAN (Commander, Fifth Air Force)
- COMAIRSOUTH (DEPCINCUSAFE for the Southern Region)
- All other spouse travel must be approved by the Chief of Staff on a case-by-case basis (The Assistant Vice Chief of Staff normally acts for the Chief as the approval authority)
- Above approval authorities apply to spouse travel on both DoD and commercial aircraft
- Requests should be submitted by message to AF/CVA (with info to HQ USAF/DPG for General Officer spouse travel and with info to HQ USAF/LGTT for all other spouse travel requests) not later than 10 work days prior to the effective date of travel
- All requests should include:
- Date and purpose of travel
- Complete information as required by paragraph 14-2, DoD 4515.13-R
- Identification of the general officer or equivalent (name and position) initiating the request. Request must be signed out at/above MAJCOM Chief of Staff level
- A brief background of precedents (past approvals is available)
- General officer spouse travel requests should additionally include:
- Date of last travel to the location
- Number of command dependents at the location being visited
- A specific, detailed itinerary for the spouse, indicating what event(s) he/she is participating in, what his/her role will be, and any VIPs participating
- Space available spouse travel under the authority of the DEPSECDEF memo must be supported with a form of travel authorization while space required travel will be supported with invitational travel orders funding transportation only. DEPSECDEF policy (as amplified by SAF/GC and AF/JA) authorizes paying only for transportation costs when the spouse is traveling in a space required status and prohibits payment of per diem and miscellaneous expenses. Unit travel funds are used to pay for transportation (NOTE: Reimbursement is not applicable when traveling on a CINC's command aircraft, however a travel authorization must be prepared for the spouse)
- The decision as to whether a particular spouse travel request meets the criteria of official requirements and actual participation is a judgment call on the part of the approving authority
- If the approving authority is comfortable that the request meets approval criteria and can stand public scrutiny, it can be approved
- For general officer spouses, scheduling and selection of aircraft is usually done by the executive or aide. For other spouse travel, space requirement movement is arranged by the Traffic Management Office
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Within the Air Force, good judgment has been used by our people and the approval process is well controlled. This has unfortunately not always been the case in the other Services, sometimes causing DoD-wide visibility problems and embarrassment.
- Each case of spouse travel should stand on it own merits and must clearly satisfy the DoD criteria, especially those requests not subject to additional review
- None, for information only
SPOUSE TRAVEL IN SPECIAL STATUS
- To distinguish between spouses traveling in their own right from spouse travel when accompanying their sponsors
- Sometimes spouses travel in their own right, as unpaid volunteers or members of boards and committees. An example would be a base's President of the Protestant Women of the Chapel traveling to the Major Command for an annual seminar
- Invitational travel orders are used; these can be funded (as authorized by the Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR)) or unfunded, as appropriate
- Most travel is by commercial air, and the sponsoring base organization budgets travel and per diem, using either appropriated or non-appropriated funds. For all commercial travel, funded orders are required
- If military aircraft is desired, an exception to policy would have to be approved by the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- If your spouse travels on funded orders (in his/her own right), make sure the person who prepares the orders does it correctly IAW the JFTR and AFI 37-128; have the base administration folks in the loop; insist on tight controls and know what the orders authorize
- The visibility associated with spouses traveling on Government funds (even if it is not "spouse travel", per se) is high, and is always a potential target for fraud, waste, and abuse
- None, for information only
SPOUSE TRAVEL IN STAFF CARS
- To define the legal basis and criteria governing spouse travel in government vehicles
- The laws that govern travel on government aircraft also apply to government vehicles (Title 31, USC)
- When spouse travel by air is appropriate, staff car support is equally valid
- A spouse officially invited to attend a function or ceremony with the military member is authorized travel by government vehicle. When separation of the spouse and member occurs during official functions, the spouse is afforded the same transportation as the member
- A spouse's exposure at quasi-official functions increases commensurate with the sponsor's increase in responsibilities. Consequently the potential for possible embarrassment to the Air Force through perceived misuse of government resources also increases
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Spouse travel in government vehicles is very visible. All travel must be for an official purpose. Stopping at the corner drug store or the base exchange enroute between two official functions (unless on TDY status) is NOT authorized
- Spouse travel in government vehicles is normally appropriate only when the spouse is representing the Air Force in an official capacity
- None, for information only