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Pilot Program Shares the Cost of
Personal Cell Phones for Government Use

By Tony Zecca

October 16, 2000

This 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? Wouldn’t 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?

It's common 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."

Mobile communications, 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 system.


The Logistics Center spends approximately $70,000 per year on contracts for mobile communications, wireless devices, pagers and cellular phones.


Applying similar 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 cell phone."

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: Voucher Program

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.

What It 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.
  • Significant 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.
  • Participants no longer have to carry equipment that is restricted from private use.

"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."

For More Information

Norman Bowles is the Program Director for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Logistics Center. He can be reached at FAALC, 6500 South MacArthur, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73169. Phone (405) 954-4358, Fax (405) 954 4511.

About the Author

Anthony J. 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

Related Links

A Taste of Reinvention from the FAA Logistics Center

National Partnership for Reinventing Government Reinvention Labs/Waivers Clearinghouse

President’s Quality Award Program

Federal Aviation Administration

October 16, 2000


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