Pilot Program Shares the Cost of
Cell Phones for Government Use
By Tony Zecca
year, Norman Bowles, Director of the Federal Aviation Administration
Logistics Center in Oklahoma City, will give a choice to employees
who use mobile communications. Use a government-owned phone/pager
or use your privately owned cell phone and get reimbursed at a flat
payment rate, much like the reimbursement for using your car for
government business. No stranger to out-of-the-box thinking, the
Logistics Center is a Reinvention Lab in the Department of
Transportation and a recipient of a Merit Award in this year's
President's Quality Award Program. The Center has also earned certification
in the international standard for quality, ISO 9000.
For those federal
workers who need to stay connected, the government pays $60 a month
for a pager, $60 a month for a cell phone. Today's technology combines
voice mail and cellular phone in one service cost. Many workers
also have cell phones and pagers for their personal use. Isn't there
a way to tap into the phone that a person already owns? Wouldnt
it save the government money? Wouldn't federal workers prefer it
that way instead of carrying an extra phone and pager? How compliant
would employees be if office communications were maintained on their
own cellular phones?
sense thinking like this that has Norman Bowles, Director of FAALC
excited. A visionary who saw cross-references to the Department
of Transportation's standard polices of government travel, he found
a way to apply similar rules to the use of cellular phones. "Why
can't we reimburse employees for the use of a personal cellular
phone in the same way we reimburse for mileage?" Bowles said.
"Less abuse, less waste, people would be happier and more willing
to be accessible."
cellular phones and pagers for example, are an essential and expensive
part of FAA operations. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,
the Federal Aviation Administration Logistics Center helps keep
the skies safe, repairing and supporting a host of air traffic control
systems, including navigation and landing products. A customer-care
center responds to more than 33,000 calls a year from 6,000 technicians
around the nation who maintain the country's air traffic control
Center spends approximately $70,000 per year on contracts for mobile
communications, wireless devices, pagers and cellular phones.
techniques as those used for government travel, the Logistics Center
has put into effect a pilot program that anticipates savings of
45%-75% annually. In situations where FAALC determines mobile communicating
equipment is required, FAALC will give the employee a choice of
use of a government owned phone or pager or a privately owned cell
phone, which will be reimbursed at a flat payment rate.
"From now on
we will either give employees meeting our criteria a government
cell phone or we will give them $30 a month to use their personal
cell phone if it meets our criteria. It not only results in lower
monthly costs, but also relieves property management responsibility,
repair and replacement, tracking usage and paying bills. In addition,
because we are giving out money to "eligible" employees, it has
forced us to really look at the criteria we use to issue a government
When one looks
at the cost of up keep and accountability, current technologies,
dollars saved, this is an idea every agency could benefit from.
How It Works:
When an employee
chooses to use his or her personal cellular phone, eligible employees
will be issued a voucher of $30. The $30 voucher may be adjusted
as time goes on to reflect the existing market conditions, just
the same way that mileage is periodically recomputed for per diem.
Only designated employees requiring a government cellular phone
will be eligible. Criteria requirements include an employee that
FAA has determined must be in a "ready mode status." Additionally,
the "private mobile communication system" must meet FAALC requirements.
The United States Government maintains no responsibility
for equipment and service, however users who exceed their $30 voucher
in any month can claim the additional value. Each user will be required
to submit a form to accounting in order to receive the payout.
Means to the Government, and to the Employee
Here are the
benefits for the agency and the employee:
- An immediate
return on investment since there is no cost for phones or equipment.
operational and administrative cost savings over the current process.
- No vendors
switch over cost, with a simple transparent transition process.
- The use
of one-piece, telecommunications equipment per individual vice
pager and cell phone.
no longer have to carry equipment that is restricted from private
"This is a
potentially big breakthrough in the sense that it leverages other
reimbursement concepts," Bowles said. "The notion that
it makes sense for the government to rely on an individual's personally
owned communication device and that the reimbursement does not have
to be on a minute by minute basis, has implications that could be
applicable to other situations as well."
is the Program Director for the Federal Aviation Administrations
Logistics Center. He can be reached at FAALC, 6500 South MacArthur,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73169. Phone (405) 954-4358, Fax (405) 954
Zecca is the Pubic Affairs Coordinator for he United States Coast
Guard Vessel Traffic Service Puget Sound in Washington State. Currently
writing for Access America
E-Gov E-Zine, he can be reached at AZecca@aol.com.
Taste of Reinvention from the FAA Logistics Center
Partnership for Reinventing Government Reinvention Labs/Waivers
Quality Award Program