New long-term temporary duty (TDY) per diem rules for civilian Department of Defense workers went into effect earlier this month.
But 13 federal employees’ unions oppose the changes, especially for civilian DOD workers.
Defense Travel Management Office director Harvey Johnson explained in a release that the per diem rules, which will impact lodging, meals and incidentals, would save the DOD $22 million annually.
Long-term TDY is any temporary duty longer than 30 days. Civilian employees on government business who stay at a location for more than 30 days will receive a flat-rate per diem that is 75 percent of a locality’s current rate. For a stay longer than 180 days, the flat-rate per diem is 55 percent. Rates are fixed, and partly based on the cost of living in a location.
Johnson said the changes are meant to give long-term TDY travelers an incentive to seek out extended-stay lodgings, which generally are less expensive. Before this change, the Joint Travel Regulations encouraged travelers on extended TDY to seek out this type of lodging, but there wasn’t a requirement or incentive to do so.
However, 13 unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees and National Federation of Federal Employees, urged Barbara Mikulski and Richard Durbin, chairpersons of the Senate appropriations committee, to utilize an appropriations bill for FY 2015 to stop the implementation of those rates.
The current continuing resolution ends Dec. 11.
“We have been told that one of the justifications for the reduction is the belief that the current policy does not include any incentive for the traveler to save government funds,” the letter reads. “While we take issue with the underlying premise, the outcome of the Department’s proposal is to force trivial savings in the travel budget by taking money from the personal pockets of federal workers who volunteer to travel for extended periods of time, rather than addressing the incentive issue directly.
“We believe that this is a misguided solution to solve a perceived problem.”
Still, Johnson emphasized the idea of per diem is to reimburse expenses, and not to take out of employees’ pockets.
“We are looking to fairly reimburse travelers for actual expenses incurred,” he said according to a release. “If that means that it’s over the flat per diem rate, then we will reimburse up to whatever it was that they spent.”
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