Plan to allow feds to keep frequent flier miles may take off

Officials at the General Accounting Office are studying whether to allow federal employees to keep their frequent flier miles as a perk of working for the government. Letting employees keep frequent flier miles is just one of many things that could be done to help retain workers at a time when the government is facing a wave of retirements, GAO officials said. "We just want to see if we can identify the various issues to see if it might be a good idea," said John Anderson, managing director for physical infrastructure issues at GAO. "This is very, very informal. We're not sure where we're going to go on this yet," he said. Anderson is working with a group charged with identifying the cost of allowing employees to keep frequent flier miles. The group plans to submit a report to Comptroller General David Walker next month. Although most federal employees are not allowed to use frequent flier miles earned during business travel for personal travel, some agencies have special "gainsharing" programs that allow employees to share in frequent flier savings. Under such programs, accrued miles must be used for further government travel, but employees are eligible to keep some of their agencies' travel savings. The General Services Administration and the Food and Drug Administration use gainsharing programs. Walker floated the idea of letting employees keep frequent flier miles in testimony this month before the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia. Walker said allowing employees to keep their frequent flier miles is just one of many legislative actions that could be used to offset the effects of expected retirements in the coming years. More than one third of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next four years and agencies don't have proper plans in place for replacing lost employees, Walker said. "[It's a] small benefit, but one that private sector employers commonly provide their people as part of a mosaic of competitive employee benefits," Walker told senators. Walker has been publicizing problems with workforce planning at agencies on Capitol Hill for the past few years. This year GAO added "strategic human capital management" as a governmentwide challenge on its biennial list of government agencies and programs at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.
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