Circular No. A-126 Revised
May 22, 1992
TO THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ESTABLISHMENTS
SUBJECT: Improving the Management and Use of Government Aircraft
4. Scope and Coverage
6. Acquisition and Management
7. Use of Government Aircraft
8. Travel on Government Aircraft
9. Reimbursement for Use of Government Aircraft
10. Approving the Use of Government Aircraft
11. Approving Travel on Government Aircraft
12. Documenting the Use of Government Aircraft
14. Accounting for Aircraft Costs
15. Effective Date
16. Information Contact
1. Purpose. This Circular is being issued to minimize cost and improve the management and use of government aviation resources. It prescribes policies to be followed by Executive Agencies in acquiring, managing, using, accounting for the costs of, and disposing of aircraft.
2. Authority. This Circular is issued under the authority of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, as amended; the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950, as amended; Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1970; Executive Order 11541; and 31 U.S.C. 1344.
3. Background. The Office of Management and Budget has concluded that the government-wide policy guidance with respect to the use of government aircraft should be clarified to restrict the operation of government aircraft to defined official purposes; restrict travel on such aircraft; require special review of such travel on government aircraft by senior officials or non-Federal travelers in circumstances described hereafter; and codify policies for reimbursement for the use of government aircraft.
4. Scope and Coverage. This Circular applies to all government-owned, leased, chartered and rental aircraft and related services operated by Executive Agencies except for aircraft while in use by or in support of the President or Vice President.
Government aircraft means any aircraft owned, leased, chartered or rented and operated by an Executive Agency.
Mission requirements means activities that constitute the discharge of an agency's official responsibilities. Such activities include, but are not limited to, the transport of troops and/or equipment, training, evacuation (including medical evacuation), intelligence and counter-narcotics activities, search and rescue, transportation of prisoners, use of defense attache-controlled aircraft, aeronautical research and space and science applications, and other such activities. For purposes of this Circular, mission requirements do not include official travel to give speeches, to attend conferences or meetings, or to make routine site visits.
Official travel means (i) travel to meet mission requirements, (ii) required use travel, and (iii) other travel for the conduct of agency business.
Required use means use of a government aircraft for the travel of an Executive Agency officer or employee, where the use of the government aircraft is required because of bona fide communications or security needs of the agency or exceptional scheduling requirements.
Senior Federal officials are persons:
(i) employed at a rate of pay specified in or fixed according to subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 5 of the U.S. Code;Generally, these are persons employed by the White House and executive agencies, including independent agencies, at a rate of pay equal to or greater than the minimum rate of basic pay for the Senior Executive Service. Exempted from this definition, for purposes of this Circular, are active duty military officers.
(ii) employed in a position in an Executive Agency, including any independent agency, at a rate of pay payable for level I of the Executive Schedule or employed in the Executive Office of the President at a rate of pay payable for level II of the Executive Schedule;
(iii) employed in a position in an Executive Agency that is not referred to in clause (i) (other than a position that is subject to pay adjustment under Section 1009 of Title 37 of the U.S. Code) and for which the basic rate of pay, exclusive of any locality-based pay adjustment under section 5304 of title 5 of the U.S. Code (or any comparable adjustment pursuant to interim authority of the President), is equal to or greater than the rate of basic pay payable for the Senior Executive Service under Section 5382 of title 5 of the U.S. Code; or
(iv) appointed by the President to a position under section 105(a)(2)(A), (B), or (C) of title 3 of the U.S. Code or by the Vice President to a position under section 106(a) (1) (A), (B), or (C) of title 3 of the U.S. Code.
Full coach fare means a coach fare available to the general public between the day that the travel was planned and the day the travel occurred.
- Actual cost means all costs associated with the use and operation of an aircraft. (See Attachment A for detailed definition.)
The number and size of aircraft acquired by an agency and the capacity of those aircraft to carry passengers and cargo shall not exceed the level necessary to meet the agency's mission requirements.
Agencies must comply with OMB Circular No. A-76 before purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring aircraft and related services to assure that these services cannot be obtained from and operated by the private sector more cost effectively.
Agencies shall review periodically the continuing need for all of their aircraft and the cost effectiveness of their aircraft operations in accordance with the requirements of OMB Circular No. A-76. A copy of each agency review shall be submitted to GSA when completed and to OMB with the agency's next budget submission. Agencies shall report any excess aircraft and release all aircraft that are not fully justified by these reviews.
- Agencies shall use their aircraft in the most cost effective way to meet their requirements.
7. Use of Government Aircraft. Agencies shall operate government aircraft only for official purposes. Official purposes include the operation of government aircraft for (i) mission requirements, and (ii) other official travel.
Official travel that is not also required use travel or to meet mission requirements shall be authorized only when:
(i) no commercial airline or aircraft (including charter) service is reasonably available (i.e., able to meet the traveler's departure and/or arrival requirements within a 24 hour period, unless the traveler demonstrates that extraordinary circumstances require a shorter period) to fulfill effectively the agency requirement; or
(ii) the actual cost of using a government aircraft is not more than the cost of using commercial airline or aircraft (including charter) service. When a flight is being made to meet mission requirements or for required use travel (and is certified as such in writing by the agency which is conducting the mission as required in Section 10.b.), secondary use of the aircraft for other travel for the conduct of agency business may be presumed to result in cost savings (i.e., cost comparisons are not required).
Travelers may not use government aircraft on a "space available" basis unless:
(i) the aircraft is already scheduled for use for an official purpose;
(ii) such "space available" use does not require a larger aircraft than needed for the official purpose;
(iii) such "space available" use results only in minor additional cost to the government; and
(iv) reimbursement is provided as set forth in Section 9.
For travel that is not required use travel:
(i) Any incidental private activities (personal or political) of an employee undertaken on an employee's own time while on official travel shall not result in any increase in the actual costs to the government of operating the aircraft.
(ii) The government shall be reimbursed the appropriate share of the full coach fare for any portion of the time on the trip spent on political activities (except as provided in subsection (d) below).
For required use travel. The government shall be reimbursed as follows (except as may otherwise be required by subsection (d)) for required use travel:
(i) For a wholly personal or political trip, the full coach fare for the trip;
(ii) For an official trip during which the employee engages in political activities, the appropriate share of the full coach fare for the entire trip;
(iii) For an official trip during which the employee flies to one or more locations for personal reasons, the excess of the full coach fare of all flights taken by the employee on the trip over the full coach fare of the flights that would have been taken by the employee had there been no personal activities on the trip.
"Space available" travel. For "space available" travel other than for the conduct of agency business, whether on mission or other flights, the government shall be reimbursed at the full coach fare except (i) as authorized under 10 U.S.C. 4744 and regulations implementing the statute; and (ii) by civilian personnel and their dependents in remote locations (i.e., locations not reasonably accessible to regularly scheduled commercial airline service).
- In any case of political travel, reimbursement shall be made in the amount required by law or regulation (e.g., 11 C.F.R. 106.3) if greater than the amount otherwise required by the foregoing reimbursement rules.
10. Approving the Use of Government Aircraft. The following policies apply to the procedures under which the use of government aircraft for official travel may be approved by the agency which owns or operates the aircraft:
Only an agency head, or officials designated by the agency head, may approve the use of agency aircraft for official travel.
Whenever a government aircraft used to fulfill a mission requirement is used also to transport senior Federal officials, members of their families or other non-Federal travelers on a "space available" basis (except as authorized under 10 U.S.C. 4744 and regulations implementing that statute), the agency that is conducting the mission shall certify in writing prior to the flight that the aircraft is scheduled to perform a bona fide mission activity, and that the minimum mission requirements have not been exceeded in order to transport such "space available" travelers. In special emergency situations, an after-the-fact written certification by an agency is permitted.
- Agencies that use government aircraft shall report semi-annually to GSA each use of such aircraft for non-mission travel by senior Federal officials, members of the families of such officials, and any non-Federal travelers (except as authorized under 10 U.S.C. 4744 and regulations implementing that statute). Such reports shall be in a format specified by GSA and shall list all such travel conducted during the preceding six month period. The report shall include: (i) the name of each such traveler, (ii) the official purpose of the trip, (iii) destination(s), and (iv) for travel to which Section 8.a.(ii) applies, the appropriate allocated share of the full operating cost of each trip and the corresponding commercial cost for the trip. In addition, agencies shall report a summary of these data to OMB semi-annually in a format specified by GSA. (Reports on classified trips shall not be reported to GSA but must be maintained by the agency using the aircraft and available for review as authorized.)
General approval requirements - All travel on government aircraft must be authorized by the sponsoring agency in accordance with its travel policies and this Circular and, when applicable, documented on an official travel authorization. Where possible, such travel must be approved by at least one organizational level above the person(s) traveling. If review by a higher organizational level is not possible, another appropriate approval is required.
Special approval requirements for required use travel - Use of government aircraft for required use travel must be approved in advance and in writing. A Federal officer or employee must obtain written approval for all required use travel on a trip-by-trip basis from the agency's senior legal official or his/her principal deputy, unless (1) in the case of an officer or employee who is not an agency head, the agency head has determined that all travel by the officer or employee or travel in specified categories qualifies as required use travel, or (2) in the case of an agency head, the President has determined that all travel, or travel in specified categories, by the agency head qualifies as required use travel. Any determination by an agency head that travel by an officer or employee of that agency qualifies as required use travel must be in writing and set forth the basis for that determination. In special emergency situations, an after-the-fact written certification by an agency is permitted.
Any agency head opting to determine that travel by an officer or employee may be required use travel shall establish written standards for determining when required use travel is permitted. Such travel is not permitted unless in conformance with such written standards.
Special approval requirements for travel that is not to meet mission requirements or required use travel - Use of government aircraft for such travel by the following categories of people must be authorized in advance and in writing:
(i) senior Federal officials;
(ii) members of families of such senior Federal officials; and
(iii) non-Federal travelers.
Such authorizations must be approved on a trip-by-trip basis and be signed by the agency's senior legal official or his/her principal deputy; or be in conformance with an agency review and approval system that has been approved by OMB. In special emergency situations, an after-the-fact written certification by an agency is permitted.
Travel by such individuals that is deemed to be official travel shall be subject to the same rules and conditions as any other official travel. Travel by such individuals that is not official travel is subject to the reimbursement requirements in Section 9.c. for "space available" travel.
12. Documenting the Use of Government Aircraft. All uses of government aircraft must be documented and this documen-tation must be retained for at least two years. At a minimum, the documentation of each use of government aircraft must include:
- the tail number of the plane used
- the date(s) used
- the name(s) of the pilot(s) and flight crew
- the purpose(s) of the flight
- the route(s) flown
- the names of all passengers
When government aircraft are used to support official travel, the documentation must also include evidence that the applicable provisions of this Circular have been satisfied.
All Executive Agency officials with statutory authority to procure aircraft will assure that:
(i) Their agency's internal policies and procedures for procuring aircraft and related services are consistent with the requirements of OMB Circular No. A-76.
(ii) Their agency's aircraft programs comply with the internal control requirements of OMB Circular No. A-123 and that they are included in the agency's Management Control Plan. Any material weaknesses in these programs are to be reported in the annual internal control reports to the President and the Congress.
(iii) Their agency cooperates with the General Services Administration in the development of aircraft management policies and standards and in the collection of aircraft information.
(iv) Their agency has an aircraft information system that conforms to the generic data and reporting standards developed by GSA. Agencies that do not already have systems that conform to these standards are required to implement such systems within one year from the issuance of the GSA standards.
The Secretaries of Defense and "the uniformed serv-ices," the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of General Services shall incorporate the applicable policies in this Circular into the travel regulations which they promulgate for uniformed service, foreign service, and civilian employees, respectively. The necessary changes to these regulations should be issued no later than 180 days from the date of this Circular.
The Administrator of General Services shall maintain a single coordinating office for agency aircraft management. The responsibilities of this office shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(i) coordination of the development of effectiveness measures and standards, policy recommendations, and guidance for the procurement, operation, safety, and disposal of civilian agency aircraft;In order to carry out these responsibilities, the Administrator of General Services shall maintain an interagency aviation policy working group to advise him in developing or changing aircraft policies and information requirements.
(ii) operation of a government-wide aircraft management information system;
(iii) identification, for agencies and OMB, of opportunities: to share, transfer, or dispose of underutilized aircraft; to reduce excessive aircraft operations and maintenance costs; and to replace obsolete aircraft;
(iv) development of generic aircraft information system standards and software;
(v) other technical assistance to agencies in establishing automated aircraft information and cost accounting systems and conducting the cost analyses required by this Circular;
(vi) review of proposed agency internal aircraft policies for compliance with OMB guidance and notification to OMB of any discrepancies; and
(vii) conduct of an annual study of the variable and fixed costs of operating the different categories of government aircraft and dissemination of the results for use in making the cost comparisons required in Section 8.a.(ii) and reporting the trip costs as required in Section 10.c.
- Except for provisions of this Circular which specify their own implementation dates, each agency head shall issue internal agency directives to implement this Circular no later than 180 days from the date of the Circular. These internal agency directives must include all policies contained in this Circular, but may also contain additional policies unique to the agency. Responsibility for these policies shall be assigned to a senior management official who has the agency-wide authority and resources to implement them.
14. Accounting for Aircraft Costs. Agencies must maintain systems for their aircraft operations which will permit them to: (i) justify the use of government aircraft in lieu of commercially available aircraft, and the use of one government aircraft in lieu of another; (ii) recover the costs of operating government aircraft when appropriate; (iii) determine the cost effectiveness of various aspects of their aircraft programs; and (iv) conduct the cost comparisons required by OMB Circular A-76 to justify in-house operation of government aircraft versus procurement of commercially available aircraft services. Although agency accounting systems do not have to be uniform in their design or operation to comply with this Circular, they must accumulate costs which can be summarized into the standard Aircraft Program Cost Elements defined in Attachment B. The use of these elements to account for aircraft costs is discussed in Attachment A.