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U.S. Geological Survey Instructional Memorandum

No.: APS 2006-08

Issuance Date: August 31, 2006

Expiration Date: This IM replaces APS 2004-06 and is effective immediately.  It will remain in effect until its provisions are converted to the Survey Manual, or until it is superseded.

Subject: When Work Can Begin on an Agreement for a Non-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Customer

1.  Purpose. This Instructional Memorandum (IM) is being issued to provide guidance on when work can begin on an agreement for a non-USGS customer.  The IM describes the limited circumstances under which USGS managers may begin work for a non-USGS customer in the absence of an agreement signed by both authorized USGS and customer officials.  The IM also establishes the roles, responsibilities, and approvals required before such work may be initiated.

2. Background. The USGS receives about 30 percent of its funding through partnerships with more than 2,000 Federal, Tribal, State, and local agencies to address a broad spectrum of natural science issues.  Most of the funding agencies have been long-term partners, fully cooperating in mission-critical data collection, basic research, and interpretive studies.  To enter into an agreement with a non-USGS customer, USGS must have legal authority that permits the work to be performed and which authorizes USGS to accept and retain the funds.  In many instances, the legal authorities and funding instruments used to accept the funds are specific to the type of customer and contain requirements which must be fulfilled in order for USGS to legally perform the work and for USGS to properly record and account for all transactions.  For charges to be accounted for as reimbursable, a signed agreement is required.

During fiscal year (FY) 2003, as a result of the General Accounting Office (GAO) classifying intragovernmental (between Federal agencies/entities) transactions as a Governmentwide material weakness, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established standard business rules that all Federal agencies must adhere to.  These rules include requirements for the agency acquiring the goods or services (the agency funding the agreement) to authorize/approve the agreement, include necessary funding information/citations, and obligate the funding prior to transmittal of the agreement to the agency providing the goods and services.  The business rules define acceptance of an agreement as when it is signed by both partners.  Selling agencies are required to record an unfilled customer order immediately upon receipt and acceptance of an authorized intragovernmental order.  The USGS is implementing the new business rules as OMB and Department of Interior policies and processes are received.  The only permitted exceptions to the business rules issued by OMB are for national emergencies and for national security considerations.

In addition to issuing the new business rules for intragovernmental transactions (which only apply to transactions between Federal agencies), OMB issued additional information to agencies regarding violations of the Antideficiency Act (Section 145.6, OMB Circular No. A-l1, issued July 2003), which apply to all fiscal transactions, regardless of the source of funds (e.g., appropriated funds and funds received from other Federal agencies, the public, State governments, etc.).  Section 145.6, instructs agencies as follows:

“You may not obligate against anticipated budgetary resources before they are realized even though the anticipated budgetary resources have been apportioned. If you incur an obligation against an anticipated budgetary resource, such as anticipated spending authority from offsetting collections, then you will have a violation of the Antideficiency Act . . . . If you incur obligations against unobligated balances that are not available for the purpose or amount so obligated in the account, then you will have a violation.”

As a result, Federal agencies must have a realized budgetary resource (e.g., appropriated funds, spending authority due to a signed reimbursable agreement, etc.) available for the purpose of the obligation, before the Federal agency may incur an obligation.  If the agency incurs an obligation without a realized budgetary resource (e.g., incurs expenses or obligations for a reimbursable customer without a signed agreement) or incurs obligations against funds which are not available for the purpose of the obligation (e.g., charges costs from a reimbursable customer to another source of funds whose purpose does not include support of the type of work for which the reimbursable obligation is incurred), the agency would have a violation of the Antideficiency Act.

3. Beginning Work for Non-USGS Customers.

A. Private Entities, Foreign Countries and International Organizations. No work may begin, or expenses incurred, prior to an agreement being signed by authorized USGS officials and officials from the private entity or foreign country.  In addition, prior to incurring any expenses, an advance payment must be received by USGS and deposited in the Federal Financial System (FFS) unless there is specific authority which precludes the need for an advance (e.g., the Stevenson Wydler Technology Transfer statutes, the Foreign Assistance Act).

B. Federal, State, Municipality, Territory, Possession, or Political Subdivision Thereof. Only in exceptional circumstances should managers request an exception to the general USGS policy requiring signed agreements prior to initiation of work.  All exception requests must be for work that meets USGS mission requirements and must comply with the criteria provided below.

4. Request for Exception to Begin Work for a Federal Agency, State, Municipality, Territory, Possession, or Political Subdivision Thereof.

A. Criteria. The limited occasions when it may be necessary to begin work without a signed agreement in order to accomplish key mission objectives include:

(1) Time-and mission-critical activities associated with national emergencies (including natural disasters), national security considerations, or other extreme events.  An essential part of the USGS mission is to monitor and document the effects of significant events associated with hazards and Homeland Security activities, and to provide timely information to emergency management and other Government authorities (e.g., Federal, State and local).  Although there may be verbal agreement between USGS and the government agency to fund the work, there often is not enough lead-time to fully execute an agreement prior to initiating the work, and the nature of the event does not allow for normal business processes.

(2) Ensuring the continuity of ongoing, long-term data-collection, networks, and interpretive projects.  Long-term, continuous record data are critical to the scientific integrity of many USGS data networks.  These data networks provide valuable information that is used to manage and preserve natural resources throughout the Nation. Also, there are situations where several agencies are supporting the same network or project effort and where all but one of the agencies has signed the agreement.  It may not be economically in the best interest of the Government or physically possible to discontinue stream gages and project activities for a few weeks waiting for the successor agreement to be processed, or the break in data collection may jeopardize long-term science objectives.

B. Risk Analysis. Prior to requesting an exception, the Cost Center Manager must evaluate the financial risk of starting work without a signed agreement.  To minimize financial risk the work must be such that appropriated funds can be used to cover expenses if the agreement is not eventually signed.  In addition, requests should be limited to agreements with existing customers whom USGS has a longstanding history of agreement and funding renewal, and a reasonable expectation that the current agreement will be renewed.

C. Timeframe. Prior approval from the designated managing senior executive (Associate Director (AD), Regional Director (RD), or Regional Executive (REX)) is mandatory before work may begin for a non-USGS customer without a signed agreement.  Only one exception approval can be issued within a single fiscal year for each reimbursable agreement as follows:

D. Exception request process. Managers must evaluate and certify to the urgency of the need according to the criteria and risk analysis cited in Section 4.A and B.  Approval to continue work is time-limited as described in Section 4.C. Approving officials will regularly monitor the status of all approved exceptions and within 60 days ensure that all work and expenditures have ceased after the 90-day exception approval period.

(1) Headquarters Cost Center Chiefs, Field Cost Center Chiefs and Integrated Science Centers will submit a written request to the appropriate senior executive (AD, RD, or REX) approval to start work prior to having a signed agreement. The request should contain the following information:

(2) The Designated Managing Senior Executive (AD, RD, or REX) will promptly (within two weeks) approve or deny the request in writing.  Emergency circumstances may dictate initial verbal or electronic notification, but these subsequently shall be documented in writing in all cases.  The approval shall cite the 90-day period during which work may continue.  A copy of the approval or denial of the exception request must be provided to the servicing Fiscal Service office.

(3) The Cost Center must enter the agreement into BASIS+ recognizing that certain information for mandatory fields is not yet known, but pseudo-data can be entered to facilitate tracking – see below:

(4) The Cost Center Chief will update the Regional Executive, Regional Director, or Associate Director on the status of the agreement signing process every 30 days, up to the maximum period.  If an agreement is not signed by the end of the exception approval period, the Cost Center Chief is responsible for ceasing all work and for ceasing to charge expenditures related to the unsigned agreement.


(5) Regional Executives, Regional Directors, and Associate Directors are responsible for monitoring all unsigned agreements for cost centers under their direct line supervision.  Executives should work with each Cost Center Chief to determine which projects may need to be delayed or discontinued because of the inability to get agreements signed prior to beginning work.

(6) Fiscal Services staff will provide the Regional Executive or Associate Director with regular reports on the status of any unsigned agreements, including the Customer Name, Period of Performance, Agreement Number, Expenditures and Obligations, and the Total Anticipated Amount of Agreement Funding.

(signed)  Karen D. Baker                                                                               8/31/06
______________________________________________                            ____________
Karen D. Baker                                                                                                Date
Associate Director for Administrative Policy and Services


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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
URL: http://www.usgs.gov /usgs-manual/im/archive/aps-2006-08.html
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Issuing Office: Office of Administrative Policy and Services
Content Information Contact: Kelly Bradley, 703-648-5040, kbradley@usgs.gov
Last modification: 11-Jan-2013@16:38 (kk)
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