Advisory 14-01 April 18, 2014

  1. The $25,000 list and the Top 10 Defense Contractor Listing.

    The most current listing of contractors with contracts of $25,000 or more with the Department of Defense is now posted on the SOCO web site here. The top 10 defense contractor listing is now posted on the SOCO web site here.

  2. Leader-led Values Based Training Slides Now Available.

    Leader-led values based training slides are now available on the SOCO web site here. Ethics officials throughout DoD may use these slides when coordinating with senior leaders who may lead the discussion on the importance of ethics in their organizations as part of annual ethics training.

  3. Change in the Minimal Value.

    On April 2, 2014, the General Services Administration published a notice, in the Federal Register, which increases the "minimal value" for purposes of accepting gifts from foreign governments under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act from $350 to $375 retroactive to January 1, 2014. The Federal Register notice is found here.

  4. Determining Reasonable Costs Under JER 3-211.a(7).

    Update of the "reasonable attendance fee" for DoD employees to attend a conference where DoD personnel will be speaking as outlined in JER 3-211.a(7). Per previously determined practice, the reasonable attendance fee is adjusted every three years consistent with the percentage increase/decrease in the "minimal value" amount established by GSA under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act (FGDA). As reported above in item 3, GSA announced that the "minimal value" for purposes of the FGDA has increased. Accordingly, the reasonable per day attendance fee for purposes of JER 3-211.a(7) is now $722.

    As a reminder, the highest rate charged to any attendee (including late fees) will be used for purposes of the $722 per day reasonable fee. The $722 per day figure may be adjusted upward but only by the percentage amount by which the per diem rate for the conference location exceeds that for Washington, DC. For example, if an NFE conference will be held in New York City and the per diem rate for New City is 15% higher than that for Washington, DC, the reasonable daily fee for the New York event would be $830 ($722 x 15% = $108 + $722 = $830). No downward adjustment will be required where the per diem rate for the NFE event location is less than that for Washington, DC.

  5. Reminders of Important Ethics Dates.

    OGE provides a handy list of important due dates for various ethics documents that may be found here.

  6. 1% Pay Increase means New Thresholds.

    The 1% pay increase for 2014 affects three parts of the ethics program as follows:

    • The statutory threshold to determine who files Public Financial Disclosure Reports is $120,748.80 (120% of the minimum rate of basic pay for a General Schedule 15).
    • The outside earned income restrictions for certain covered noncareer employees is $26,955.00 (15% of the annual rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule).
    • The statutory threshold to determine which employees are subject to the post-employment conflict of interest restrictions of 18 U.S.C. § 207(c)(1) ("senior" employees) is $156,997.50 (86.5% of a level II of the Executive Schedule).

    See OGE Legal Advisory 14-01 here. Sample post-government employment restriction handouts reflecting the current pay thresholds are available under our SOCO Handouts page.

  7. Ethics Counselor Best Practices to Help Ensure Consistency in Legal Opinions Concerning Acceptance of Gifts.

    One of the Chairman's General and Flag Officer (GO/FO) Professional Character Initiatives was to provide consistency in legal opinions regarding acceptance of gifts. The DoD Committee on Standards of Conduct (CSC) agreed that accomplishing this task would include a number of steps to include: continued training of ethics counselors on gift rule complexities and on the need to inform GO/FO that ethics advice is unique to their circumstances; use of the CSC to reconcile disparate legal interpretations of the gift rules; and development of a "Best Practices List" for use by ethics counselors. Some elements of the Best Practices List are designed, at least in part, to address the perception held by some GO/FOs that the gift rules are applied in an arbitrary manner. While the Best Practices List was developed in the context of the Chairman's GO/FO Professional Character Initiative and is thus GO/FO centric, ethics counselors should be able to use it in serving all of their clients. The Best Practices List is available on the SOCO website here.

  8. The Directive Type Memorandum (DTM) 14-004, "Interim Guidance on Personal Acceptance of Gifts from Outside Sources for Combat-Related and Similar Injuries or Illnesses."

    DTM 14-004 was issued on April 17, 2014. It implements the authority in 10 U.S.C. 2601a that permits covered members, covered civilian employees, their family members, and survivors to accept gifts from certain outside sources for injuries and illnesses that are combat-related or incurred under circumstances warranting similar treatment as determined by the Secretary concerned (e.g., the Ft. Hood or Washington Navy Yard shootings). The authority does not apply to gifts that: are from foreign governments; are accepted in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act; are solicited or coerced; are accepted in violation of statute or regulation; or will reflect adversely on DoD. Ethics counselor review and approval is required prior to acceptance. The guidance in JER Sections 3-400 thru 3-406 should no longer be followed. The DTM is no longer available on the DoD Issuances website.


DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this advisory is to disseminate relevant information and sources of general guidance, policy and law on Government Ethics issues to the Department of Defense ethics community. Advisories are not intended to be and should not be cited as authoritative guidance, DoD policy, or law.