Skip to main content

313.11 - Placing Personal Calls

This chapter establishes the policy, procedure and responsibility for the management and administration of telecommunications resources when placing official and personal calls.


OPR: Information Systems Division

1. Purpose. This chapter establishes the policy, procedure and responsibility for the management and administration of telecommunications resources when placing official and personal calls.

2. Authority. The Federal Information Resources Management Regulation (FIRMR) Part 201 and Department of the Interior (DOI) memorandum dated May 11, 1988, subject Guidance on Permissible Use of Government Telephone Systems, defines the permissible use of Government telephone systems. The FIRMR and the DOI memorandum state that the purpose of Government telephone systems is to conduct official business, except under specific circumstances.

3. Definitions.

A. Authorized Personal Calls. Calls that do not adversely interfere with the performance of an employee's official duties. Supervisors are responsible for determining whether calls interfere with an employee's performance of official duties.

B. Official Calls. Calls placed over the Federal Telecommunications System (FTS) network and/or other Government-provided (owned or leased) service, equipment and/or facilities to conduct official U.S. Government business.

C. Federal Telecommunications System (FTS). FTS is under the direction and management of the General Services Administration (GSA). FTS operates on station-to-station basis among Government offices throughout the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. FTS is the primary and recommended system for use by the DOI and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for long distance calling. The FTS and other Government provided services are for official use, except as defined in this chapter. The FTS chapter in the Survey Manual (SM) is 313.6.

D. Government Telecommunications Service. Includes without limitation, the transmission, emission, or reception of signals, signs, writing, images, sounds, or intelligence of any nature, by wire, radio, fiber optic, visual or other electrical, electromagnetic or acoustically coupled means.

E. Government Telephone System. Any Government-provided service, equipment or facility, including both hardware and software, used to accomplish the transmission and reception of telephonic signals. All Government telephone systems represent resources; accordingly, their use must be managed just as any other resource.

F. Telephone Calling Cards. Telephone calling cards are issued to USGS administrative officers or other authorized representatives for employees whose duties require the frequent placement of long distance calls from locations where FTS is not available. The guidelines for the issuance and use of telephone calling cards are found in SM 313.6.9.

G. Unauthorized Personal Calls. Non-Government business related calls placed over any Government telephone system, network or service to a person or establishment, locally or in a distant city, town or community, that can be made at home during non-duty hours, weekends or holidays. Examples of unauthorized personal calls may include calls to explore or discuss employment opportunities outside the Government; matters related to second or part-time jobs, except military reserves; personal travel and/or holiday arrangements, reservations or confirmations; calls to conduct private club, religious, or fraternal organizational business or other socially related affairs; 900 number calls; stock market reports/updates; verifying movie, theater and/or sports events performance times or schedules.

4. Procedures and Responsibilities.

A. The use of Government telephone systems, including calls over commercial systems which will be paid for by the Government, shall be limited to the conduct of official business. Such official business calls may include emergency calls and calls which are necessary in the interest of the Government.

B. Use of Government telephone systems may properly be authorized as being necessary in the interest of the Government if such use satisfies the following criteria:

(1) It does not adversely affect the performance of the official duties by the employee or the employee's organization.

(2) It is of reasonable duration and frequency.

(3) It reasonably could not have been made at another time.

(4) It is provided for in a collective bargaining agreement that is consistent with this chapter, or executed before the effective date of this chapter but continuing only until the term of the agreement expires.

C. Examples of circumstances that may constitute authorized use are set forth in the list of "Examples of Use of Government Telephone Systems That May Be Authorized."

D. Personal calls that must be made during working hours may be made over the commercial long distance network if the call is consistent with the criteria in 4B above and is:

(1) Charged to the employee's home phone number or other non-Government number (third number call).

(2) Made to an 800 toll-free number.

(3) Charged to the called party if a non-Government number (collect call).

(4) Charged to a personal telephone calling (credit) card.

E. Examples of Use of Government Telephone Systems That May Be Authorized provided they are consistent with 4B above:

(1) Calls to notify a family physician, etc., when an employee is injured on the job.

(2) An employee traveling on Government business is delayed due to official business or transportation delay, and calls to notify family of a schedule change.

(3) An employee traveling for more than 1 night on Government business in the United States makes a brief call to his or her residence (but not more than an average of one call per day).

(4) An employee is required to work overtime without advance notice and calls within the local commuting area (the area from which the employee regularly commutes to work) to advise his or her family of the change in schedule or to make alternate transportation

(5) An employee makes a brief (approximately 5 minutes) daily call to locations within the local commuting area to speak to spouse or minor children (or to those responsible for them, e.g. school or day-care center) to inquire of their welfare.

(6) An employee makes brief calls to locations within the local commuting area that can be reached only during working hours, such as local government agency or physician.

(7) An employee makes brief calls to locations within the local commuting area to arrange for emergency repairs to his or her residence or automobile.

F. Employee Responsibility.

(1) Employees should be particularly sensitive to the use of Government telephone facilities under the conditions outlined in this chapter. If possible, such calls should be made during lunch, break, or other off-duty periods.

(2) Abuse of Government telephone systems, including abuse of the privileges stated herein, may result in disciplinary action in accordance with applicable Survey guidelines.

G. Supervisor's Responsibility.

(1) Supervisors are responsible for the proper management of telephone usage within their areas of responsibility and jurisdiction.

(2) The Chief, Branch of Telecommunications Services (BTS), Information Systems Division (ISD), is responsible for the policy, guidance and direction of USGS programs and activities related to Government-provided telecommunications equipment and services, and for the administration, coordination, and transmittal of all related reports to the DOI and the GSA.

5. Calls Made While on Travel Status.

A. As stated in the May 11, 1988, memorandum from the Director, Office of Information Resources Management, Office of the Secretary, the following guidelines are applicable to all DOI employees. Those guidelines are included here to ensure a uniform interpretation of the policy within the Department:

(1) Employees on overnight travel status within the 50 states are allowed to make a brief (5 minutes or less) daily call to their residence. Employees on travel status outside the 50 states and the District of Columbia are allowed to make a brief call to their residence every third day of travel.

(2) On those occasions when an employee makes a call and charges it to his/her hotel bill, the employee should request the telephone charges appear on the hotel or motel billing statement, indicating the length of the call (to the nearest minute) and the total cost of the call(s) made.

(3) If it is advantageous to the Government, calls longer than 5 minutes may be reimbursed. For example, an employee may be reimbursed for one 15-minute call over several days in lieu of one 5-minute call each day during the travel period. Calls made by employees while on travel status to their residence require the same documentation for reimbursement as calls made for other official business. Chapter 1-6.5 of the Federal Travel Regulations provides that "Charges for official telephone calls, telegrams, cablegrams, or radiograms on official business shall be allowed provided a statement is furnished showing the points between which service was rendered, the date, the amount paid for each telegram, cablegram, or radiogram, and that they were required on official business."

(4) It is not necessary for employees on travel status to originate a call from a Government telephone. Employees, though, should be encouraged to make a reasonable effort to minimize call costs and use Government telephone systems since they usually provide the most economical service and to not require employee reimbursement. If Government provided telephone service is not available or convenient, use of commercial service is permissible.

(5) Employees who travel frequently should be provided a Government issued telephone calling card (see 3F above). Telephone calling cards provide a convenient and efficient means for employees to bill calls to their office and provide documentation to manage and control costs. An employee may otherwise use a personal telephone calling card and obtain reimbursement on a travel voucher. Although it is permissible to use operator assisted or hotel telephone service to make a call, such calls are discouraged since they are the most expensive way to place long distance calls.

6. Collections.

A. The USGS will collect for any unauthorized calls made by an employee, contract or other person where it is cost-effective to do so as determined by the employee's supervisor. Reimbursing the Government for unauthorized calls does not exempt an employee from appropriate administrative, civil, or criminal action.

B. The USGS collection policy and procedure is as follows:

(1) The value of the call(s) based on the commercial long-distance rates, obtained from the Primary Interchange Carrier (PIC), and rounded to the next whole dollar amount. Example: if a call is valued at $.01 to $.99 reimbursement will be $1.00; if the call is valued at $1.00 to $1.99 reimbursement will be $2.00, etc.

(2) The amount rounded to the nearest whole dollar is to cover the administrative cost of determining that the call was unauthorized and to process the collection.

(3) Checks would be made payable to the U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY and forwarded to the Office of Financial Management (OFM), Mail Stop 271, National Center, Reston, Virginia 22092 for processing.