U.S. Geological Survey Manual
U.S. Geological Survey Instructional Memorandum
No: IM AEI 2013-02
Issuance Date: April 3, 2013
Expiration Date: Retain Until Superseded
Subject: Reduced Per Diem for Trips in Excess of 30 Days and Camp Rates
Instruction: Clarification on reducing traveler reimbursements for meals and incidentals while in official travel status. This IM replaces IM 2011-07.
1. Purpose. This Instructional Memorandum (IM) provides detailed guidance on when per diem below the maximum locality rate may be authorized. Reduced per diem is required for extended travel (trips lasting 30 days or longer) and may also be approved for what is generally referred to as camp rate.
2. Scope. This IM applies to all employees on extended travel and camp rate conditions.
A. 347 DM 1 – Travel and Transportation of Employees, Travel Policy Issuance System.
B. Federal Travel Regulations, 41 CFR Chapters 301-304.
A. Per Diem. The per diem allowance (also referred to as subsistence allowance) is a daily payment instead of reimbursement for actual expenses for lodging, meals, and related incidental expenses (M&IE).
B. Camp Rate. The camp rate is a reduced per diem rate for a specific “camp” site to cover the travel expenses of employees who must eat and lodge at nonconventional facilities. The camp rate is established to replace the lodging and M&IE allowance prescribed for temporary duty (TDY) locations.
C. Camp Site. Camp site is used to define a specific geographic area that is used for camping in the outdoors or cabin facilities, which could include a dedicated area with various amenities such as picnic tables, utility hookups, fire pits, piped potable water, etc. A camp site may, but does not necessarily, mean a campground. A vessel with sleeping facilities provided may also be designated as a camp site.
5. Federal Travel Regulation Policy. Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) 301-11.200 provides Governmentwide policy on reduced per diem rates. According to FTR 301-11.200, agencies may prescribe a reduced per diem rate lower than the prescribed maximum under the following circumstances:
A. When your agency can determine in advance that lodging and/or meal costs will be lower than the per diem rate.
B. The lowest authorized per diem rate must be stated in your travel authorization in advance of your travel.
6. Department of Interior Guidance. Bureaus may prescribe a reduced per diem rate for any TDY trip when able to determine that the traveler's expenses will be lower than the prescribed locality rate. When setting a reduced per diem rate, the lowest approved rate must be clearly stated in the travel authorization. Approving officials may not include reduced per diem rates on "blanket" authorizations (e.g., limited open travel authorization). Bureaus may reduce a traveler's per diem rate in the following circumstances:
A. The approving official can determine in advance that lodging and/or meal costs will be lower than the maximum allowable per diem rate.
B. A traveler is on an extended TDY assignment and can obtain a reduced lodging rate or prepare meals in extended-stay lodging. In this case, the per diem rate will be automatically reduced to 55 percent of the locality rate, unless another rate is fully justified.
A pre-authorized reduced per diem rate is applicable from the first day of the TDY trip through the last day of the trip. The traveler should not further reduce the rate on the first or last day of travel (i.e., travelers do not further lower per diem to 75 percent of the reduced rate on travel days). When a TDY assignment, that was expected to last fewer than 30 days, is extended as TDY travel beyond 30 days (i.e., becomes an extended TDY assignment), Bureaus must establish a flat rate for per diem reimbursement for the remaining days of the assignment.
7. U.S. Geological Survey Policy.
A. Travel of 30 Days or More. Reduced per diem is required for assignments of 30 days or more, beginning on the first day of assignment. Travelers are expected to find lodging at a location that allows meals to be cooked, therefore, eliminating the need to obtain meals at restaurants. Per diem rate will be reduced to 55 percent of the full per diem rate (lodging plus M&IE) for the location, unless a different rate is fully justified. A traveler must provide a written statement, signed by the first-line supervisor, stating what actions they took to try to obtain reduced per diem and what rate they were actually able to obtain (lodging is typically what needs to be increased and not M&IE). A travel authorization must be completed showing the reduced rate and approved by the designated official.
(1) If a trip originally is scheduled to be less than 30 days, but, it is later determined during the trip that it will extend more than 30 days, at that point in time the per diem is adjusted to 55 percent. For example, if on day 20 the traveler determines that he/she must extend the travel to 35 days, day 20 begins the 55 percent per diem calculation.
(2) The 55 percent reduction does not apply if the traveler is in two different locations for a total of 30 days unless they are on a detail for more than 30 days and then have a small TDY trip to another location during the detail assignment. In those cases, the reduction applies to the detail site but not the offshoot TDY trips from that detail site.
B. Camp Rates. Camp rates are reduced per diem rates used to cover travel expenses of employees who must eat and lodge at nonconventional facilities. The camp rate is established to replace the lodging and M&IE allowance prescribed for TDY locations. Camp rates should be based on 55 percent of the locality rate of the TDY location unless a rate above or below the 55 percent is established and approved. Once a camp rate is established, the same camp rate is extended to all similarly situated travelers at a given site.
(1) To establish a camp rate that is different than the standard 55 percent rate, the Science Center Director, Regional Director, or Mission Area Associate Director must take into consideration all aspects of costs that may be incurred by the traveler (e.g., are food, lodging, or other amenities being provided).
(2) Camp rate considerations:
(a) When Food Is Provided. When a meal or meals are provided the traveler must exclude the meal or meals that were provided in the voucher. If the exact amount of the meal is known, the M&IE should be reduced by the exact amount. When the exact amount of meals provided is unknown, the traveler should check the applicable box on the travel voucher for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This consideration includes situations when one or two people purchase food for a group of employees. The cardholder must show as part of their expense documentation that the total purchase divided by meals and employees does not exceed the M&IE allowance. The travelers exclude the meals provided from their vouchers. Travelers are still required to claim reimbursement for incidental expenses.
(b) When Food Is Not Provided. If the travel takes place at a regular TDY location and the travel is less than 30 days, the traveler is entitled to the applicable M&IE for that location unless a camp rate is established. Typically, camping involves buying groceries and preparing own meals at a site which is less expensive than eating in a restaurant. When establishing a camp rate, consideration should be given to the typical cost of groceries at the location.
(c) Lodging – Camp Site Charges. When there are charges for camp sites or camp-site facilities, the traveler should be reimbursed for full costs of the lodging, not to exceed the lodging rate for that TDY location.
(d) Lodging – No Camp Site Charges. If travelers are in Government-furnished tents, RVs, vessels, or cabins, the lodging is reduced to zero because the lodging is furnished by the Government. Cost centers are responsible for ensuring that equipment and lodging are provided.
C. Setting Camp Rates. When setting camp rates where meals are NOT provided by the USGS or another source, and it is determined that the camp rate should be more or less than the 55 percent allowed, the local current condition for the site location should be taken into consideration. The rate must never exceed the maximum locality nor should it be less than the daily incidental rate for the area in which the TDY is taking place. A camp rate request for a specific camp site must be submitted through the Science Center Director, Regional Director, or Mission Area Associate Director to the Office of Accounting and Financial Management (OAFM) for approval. All requests must include detailed justification of how the rate was established. All considerations must be documented. All approved camp rates either over or under the 55 percent prescribed rate will be posted on the Travel Management Section Intranet page for all centers to access.
(1) Use of a camp rate requires a single trip authorization (TDT) showing the reduced rate. The approved rate documentation must be uploaded to each voucher. See below for links to per diem rates.
(a) Domestic: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/21287.
(b) OCONUS (AK, HI, Guam, etc): http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/perdiemCalc.cfm.
(c) Foreign: http://aoprals.state.gov/content.asp?content_id=184&menu_id=78.
8. Approval Authority. U.S. Geological Survey Delegations of Authorities as outlined in Survey Manual Chapter 205.2.
A. First-line supervisor or other designated official shall approve via travel authorization (TA) reduced per diem for temporary duty travel of 30 days or more beginning on the first day of the trip.
B. Science Center and Regional Directors and Mission Area Associate Directors shall submit, for approval, to OAFM camp rates that are either over or under the Bureau’s 55 percent camp rate.
(1) First-line supervisors may authorize via TA reduced per diem/camp rate set at 55 percent or when a different rate is approved by OAFM.
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