Frequent flier legislation passes Senate committee

An amendment to the Defense authorization bill (S. 1155) allowing military personnel and federal workers to keep the frequent flier miles they earn while traveling on the government's dime, was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee Friday. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., sponsored the amendment along with Sen. John Warner, R-Va. In August Warner introduced S. 1369, a Senate bill that would have extended the benefit to federal employees. The Defense authorization amendment would allow military personnel, foreign service members, their families and others who travel on official government business to keep their frequent flier miles. "Soldiers, sailors, pilots, and Marines are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, prepared to go into harm's way," Lieberman explained. "Letting them take advantage of frequent flier programs--which cost the taxpayer absolutely nothing--is a small gesture, but one that can mean a lot for morale." The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-355) prohibits federal employees from accepting promotional items they receive while traveling at government expense. Those items included frequent flier miles, upgrades and access to carrier clubs or facilities. "The 1994 ban was intended to prevent employees from selectively traveling in order to obtain perks," Lieberman said. "And it encouraged agencies to use frequent flier mileage returned to them by employees to reduce their official travel costs. But the ban has not resulted in significant cost savings and has, in fact, saddled agencies with the additional burden of keeping track of frequent flier mileage." Several legislators have argued that allowing federal workers to keep their frequent flier miles would help federal retention and recruitment efforts. On July 30, the House passed H.R. 2456, a bill introduced by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Connie Morella, R-Md., that would allow federal workers to keep earned miles as long as they were obtained under the same terms as provided to the general public and cost the government no extra money. "The time has come for us to recognize that the current prohibition on frequent flier benefits is unfair to our federal workforce as well as unnecessary for good government," Lieberman said. "In fact, by making these benefits available to government workers, we will help make federal service more competitive with the private sector." The amendment now awaits a vote on the Senate floor.
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