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Accountability, improved policies follow Army change of station travel review

Dec 07, 2007

The Army is conducting an internal review to identify possible irregularities in its Temporary Change of Station process for long-term travelers. The Army Leadership directed this review as part of the its ongoing efforts to identify weaknesses in the Temporary Change of Station process, make improvements without delay, detect incidents of misconduct and hold accountable those who have engaged in misconduct.

"The Army has an obligation to ensure we use resources provided by the taxpayers efficiently and wisely," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. "Our investigation into the Temporary Change of Station process led to significant improvements that make it easier to find suitable housing for Soldiers on temporary duty while reducing the chance for fraud or waste."

The Army's internal review is part of its efforts to ensure greater accountability in the Temporary Change of Station travel system, which the Army substantially revised in August 2007. Since 9/11, the Army has used Temporary Change of Station or temporary duty (TDY) orders to fulfill operational requirements for the war on terrorism.

For purposes of its internal review, the Army is giving initial priority to the claims of those Soldiers who have claimed an aggregate of more than $100,000 while on Temporary Change of Station orders. Since this review process began, some cases of potential fraud have been discovered, as well as possible incidents of waste and abuse.

Fraud is defined broadly as any intentional deception designed to deprive the United States unlawfully of something of value, or to secure from the United States for an individual a benefit, privilege, allowance, or consideration to which he or she is not entitled, and it includes making false statements and submitting false claims. In contrast, waste and abuse in the context of travel claims generally involve the extravagant, careless, or needless expenditure of Government funds, or the consumption or misuse of Government resources as the result of deficient practices, systems, controls, or decisions.

Because they potentially involve criminal offenses, all suspected cases of fraud are being referred to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, commonly known as CID. The Army's internal review currently consists of full-time examiners. Details of the suspected incidents of fraud cannot yet be disclosed due to the law enforcement sensitivity surrounding the cases.

Soldiers on Temporary Change of Station orders support critical missions around the world, including work in operations centers and at mobilization sites. The changes to the Temporary Change of Station policy and subsequent reviews address only Temporary Change of Station Soldiers who are not deployed to a combat zone or designated hostile fire area. The Army's intent in revising the Temporary Change of Station policy is to minimize the use of TCS orders to fill long-term mission requirements, and to exercise good stewardship of the Army's scarce resources.

"The Army recognizes the sacrifice citizen Soldiers make in leaving their homes, jobs and communities to serve our Nation in a time of war," Secretary Geren said. "Since 9/11, thousands of our country's citizens have stepped forward to support missions around the world honorably. The improper actions of the few in no way diminish the outstanding service of the many."

A presidential order dated September 14, 2001, authorized the Army to call on individual ready reservists to fill jobs left vacant by Soldiers deploying into operational theaters or meet the immediate demands of operations. The positions being filled included staffing operations centers, training Soldiers at mobilization sites and guarding sensitive areas. Though the assignments were expected to be short term, many serving Soldiers have been extended repeatedly-sometimes for several months or years at a time.

Being on Temporary Change of Station orders entitles Soldiers to lodging and per diem reimbursements in addition to their normal housing allowance. Using Temporary Change of Station orders to send Reserve Component Soldiers to temporary duty locations for 180 days or less is normal Army procedure because they are essentially maintaining a home away from home and are entitled to reasonable reimbursement for their additional expenses.

The changes made in August and the continuing travel claim reviews will ensure that the Temporary Change of Station program remains a viable means of satisfying temporary requirements. The administrative changes make the program more manageable and efficient, saving dollars for the war effort.

The Temporary Change of Station policy changes, which took effect Aug. 15, 2007, include the following provisions: Soldiers in a Temporary Change of Station status who are filling long-term requirements (such as requirements lasting longer than 180 days) may be offered permanent change of station assignments to their positions. Soldiers who do not wish permanent change of station may request a waiver to remain on active duty with reduced per diem entitlements. Soldiers who decline a permanent change of station assignment and are not granted a waiver will be released from active duty when their current orders expire or by Jan. 31, 2008, whichever is earlier.

The U.S. Army Installation Management Command will now manage travel funds and arrange lodging. Soldiers in Temporary Change of Station status will be directed to use government lodging solutions (installation or contract). Soldiers may use live on the civilian economy with Installation Management Command approval. All travel claims will be filed using the Defense Travel System.

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For more information, please call Army Public Affairs' Paul Boyce at phone: (703) 697-2564.

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