GSA Adds Plain Language, Common Sense to Federal Travel RegulationRevisions Are First Step Toward Making Policy, Rules Easier To Understand and Use
April 2, 1998
Contact: Eleni Martin (202) 501-1231, or
James L. Harte (202) 501-0483
Washington, DC -- Working with Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has issued parts of the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) in a new "plain language" format that is easier to use and understand.
"These revisions to our travel regulations are but a first step toward making all of our policies easier to understand by using plain language and common sense," according to GSA Administrator David J. Barram.
GSA published in the Federal Register on April 1, 1998, a final rule adding a new Chapter 300 and revising Chapter 301, except for Appendices A and B, which have not changed. Chapter 300 contains general guidance on using the FTR and on reporting requirements. The revised Chapter 301 covers temporary duty (TDY) travel and is presented in a question-and-answer format.
The final rule, FTR Amendment 70, is effective July 1, 1998. It appears on pages 15950 through 15983 and is accessible on-line via a link from GSA's travel policy Web site at http://policyworks.gov/ftr.
GSA will also issue Chapters 302-304 in plain language. These chapters will remain in effect in their present format and language until that time.
The FTR will be revised on a regular basis as federal travelers provide GSA with feedback on the plain language format, according to Becky Rhodes, Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of Transportation and Personal Property in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy. At an introductory training session in January, federal workers generally welcomed the new question-and-answer format that made the regulations more user friendly, she said. Rhodes' office is overseeing this comprehensive project.
GSA received the following feedback following the training session:
� "I believe that the question and answer format and the "plain language" style of the new FTR will benefit our agency. This format will be easier for the traveler and the agency to understand. It is more direct and does not allow for as much individual interpretation as the previous FTR."
� "I prefer the "plain language" version over the old version. After all, the idea is to simplify the information so that anyone can pick up the FTR and be able to understand and implement its content. I believe the "plain language" version accomplishes this task very nicely."
The plain language rewrite follows other initiatives GSA has taken to simplify and save money on travel. GSA took the lead in the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program's successful efforts to greatly simplify travel and relocation policies. Those changes are expected to save the Government several million dollars per year in travel and relocation expenses. The multi-agency team responsible for recommending the reforms received the Vice President's Hammer Award in March 1997.
Moreover, GSA negotiated discount air fares for Government employees on official travel with 16 airlines covering 4,840 domestic and 933 international city-pair markets. The 5,773 city pairs will generate an estimated annual savings of $2.65 billion. The weighted average discount from unrestricted fares offered to the general public is 70 percent. For example, a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Washington costs $85 and from Chicago to Washington, $49.
GSA also recently released new per diem rates for federal employees on official travel in the 48 contiguous States. The agency used updated research techniques to ensure that the new rates are more accurate and fair and truly reflect current market conditions.
Comparison of old and new Chapter 301, Federal Travel Regulation
301-7.5(b) No allowance for travel of 12 hours or less. A per diem allowance shall not be allowed for official travel of 12 hours or less. (This requirement also applies to travel incident to a change of official station.)
301-11.2 Will I be reimbursed for per diem expenses if my official travel is 12 hours or less?
301-7.9(a)(2) Lodging not available at temporary duty location. In certain circumstances, lodging accommodations may not be available at the temporary duty location and the employee must obtain lodging in an adjacent locality where the prescribed maximum per diem rate is higher than the maximum per diem rate for the location of the temporary duty point. In such instances, the agency may make an administrative determination on an individual case basis to authorize or approve the higher maximum per diem rate. If the higher maximum rate is not justified and authorized in advance, the employee must furnish a statement with the travel voucher satisfactorily explaining the circumstances that caused him/her to obtain lodging in an area other than at the temporary duty point designated in the travel authorization.
301-11.8 What is the maximum per diem rate I will receive if lodging is not available at my TDY location?
If lodging is not available at your TDY location, your agency may authorize or approve the maximum per diem rate for the location where lodging is obtained.