***image2***In times of constrained temporary duty budgets, it’s important for military members to know the ways they can save their units’ money, said 1st Lt. Alan Copeland, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Financial Management chief command pay and entitlements.
“All Airmen should treat travel expenses as if they are coming out of their own pockets,” Lieutenant Copeland said. “It’s everyone’s duty to act responsibly and reduce (temporary duty) costs where appropriate.”
One of the easiest ways units can reduce travel costs is to ensure travelers use their government travel card for all authorized transactions where it’s accepted.
“Withdrawing cash is very expensive,” said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Banks, USAFE FM chief command travel pay policy and procedures. “For each ATM withdrawal there’s a service charge of either $2 or three percent, whichever is higher. So if a traveler pulls $20 out of a teller machine each day for five consecutive days, that individual accrues up to $10 in ATM fees. However, if that same cardholder had withdrawn $100 at one time, the service fees would be approximately $3 or three percent of the total transaction. These service fees can be avoided entirely, by using the government travel card as a charge card for transactions whenever possible.”
Another way to reduce official travel expenses is to book flights with discount air carriers, said Sergeant Banks.
“Many people don’t realize that they can use discount carriers,” he said. “But, USAFE officials have authorized and pre-approved certain routes for using discount carriers that operate solely within Europe.”
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these tickets are more restricted and cannot be easily changed or cancelled without incurring additional costs.
Money can also be saved by properly documenting vouchers with the correct per diem owed to the traveler, said Lieutenant Copeland.
“All military members are directed to use government dining facilities at the government meal rate whenever they’re lodged on a base,” the lieutenant said. “However, if because of duty, it’s determined that an individual could not use the dining hall, the traveler can file an Air Force Form 2282, Missed Meal Form, and receive compensation for a specific missed meal.”
Once a voucher is filled out correctly, it’s important that travelers file within five days of returning from the TDY location, said Sergeant Banks.
“When people file their vouchers promptly, USAFE gets rebates,” he said. “This is money that comes directly back to the command and is distributed for community projects.”
Currently, USAFE receives an average rebate of $140,000 per year. Finance distributes the money according to each base’s government travel card delinquency rate, Sergeant Banks said.
The bottom line is both the traveler and the approving official must follow the travel rules and file the vouchers promptly, Lieutenant Copeland said.
More information about per diem and travel costs is in the Joint Federal Travel Regulation located online at: http://www.dtic.mil/perdiem.