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Posted by on Oct 13, 2015

Paying for Non-Federal Travel

Paying for Non-Federal Travel

Can appropriated funds ever be used to pay travel expenses for a non-Federal person?

Don lives and works in Houston for NASA. He was recently notified that he will receive NASA’s “Top Employee” award at NASA headquarters in Washington and wants his wife to accompany him. Can NASA pay for Don’s wife’s travel expenses to accompany him?

We can go straight to the Red Book which has the answer to everything…at least everything pertaining to the use of appropriated funds! Here’s what we’d find:

“Normally the Federal government will NOT pay for a non-Federal person to travel. In this case, however, there is an exception. It has long been acceptable practice that someone, like a close family member, can accompany a Federal employee to an agency annual incentive award ceremony. Note that this does not apply to just any award ceremony an office may hold. It is typically the big, agency-wide one held once a year and one that has outside guests attend.”

Therefore Don’s wife may have her travel expenses paid when she accompanies him to the awards ceremony in Washington (saves Don and his wife some money!).

There are a few other exceptions:

  • Someone who is invited in to the agency to give a speech
  • A person providing a direct service to the government in a non-paid status (like an advisory board member)
  • A job prospect traveling for an interview
  • Helpers for disabled Federal employees

Keep in mind that in these instances of paying for non-Federal people to travel – as in all expenditures of appropriated funds – the Government MUST receive the primary benefit of the expenditure.

These rules and exceptions can be found in the Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (commonly referred to as “The Red Book), published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Volume I, Chapter 4 “Purpose.”

Do you have questions on the Red Book? Send in your comments below or investigate our Appropriations Law training.


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