International Activities- Policy
The purpose of this memorandum is to clarify and document current Water Resources
Division (WRD) policy with respect to official foreign travel, foreign project
and technical assistance activities, foreign exchange scientists, training
of personnel from foreign countries, and foreign visitors. A companion memorandum
(WRD Memorandum No. 88.66) addressing procedural requirements related to these
topics will be issued in the near future.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been involved in water-resources activities
in foreign countries for nearly a century. Since the 1890's, USGS water scientists
have been assigned from time to time to overseas activities under special bilateral
agreements with other countries or in support of other U.S. Federal agencies'
foreing programs. For many years, USGS scientists have actively participated
in water-related international professional and technical organizations and
collaborated with counterpart scientists from other countries in research and
related activities. As a recognized world leader in water-resources studies,
the USGS also provides formal training courses and on-the-job training opportunities
for foreign scientists, engineers, and technicians. Changes in U.S. foreign
policy and in USGS and WRD domestic mission, personnel, and funding constraints
require that WRD policies and procedures regarding international activities
be updated periodically.
- Official Foreign Travel -- The WRD recognizes the potential benefits
of international cooperation in furthering the goals and objectives of our
hydrologic programs. To the extent that foreign travel by Division personnel
is necessary to realize these potential benefits, such travel will be supported
and encouraged by the Division. It is the policy of WRD to recommend approval
of foreign travel only if it contributes significantly to the accomplishment
of the USGS mission and if the purposes of the travel cannot be accomplished
in any other reasonable manner. Expenditure for foreign travel of funds appropriated
to the USGS will be approved only when clearly justified by anticipated benefits
to USGS mission programs. WRD personnel should not make tentative commitments,
and must not make binding commitments, for official foreign travel without
prior approval by the Chief Hydrologist.
Official foreign travel by USGS employees must meet stringent administrative
criteria stemming from legislative requirements and regulations of the Departments
of State and Interior. In this regard, the final approval authority for foreign
travel of a USGS employee is vested with the Assistant Secretary for Water
and Science, Department of the Interior (DOI).
Increased public concern regarding possible wast, fraud, or mismanagement
in the Federal Government makes it imperative that we avoid situations that
might have even the appearance of misuse of Government funds. One such situation
is the use of annual leave by an employee in conjunction with official travel.
DOI guidance states that such leave "should be approved only when the approving
authority is sure that the travel is necessary and the annual leave is incidental
to the mission to be "performed." All individuals, from the traveler to those
responsible for travel authorization and leave approval, must be aware of
the sensitivity of annual leave taken in conjunction with official travel
that could appear to violate departmental policy. No foreign travel request
and no annual leave in conjunction with foreign travel will be approved by
the traveler's supervisor unless the above requirements are met.
Because of the concerns cited above and in the interest of prudent fiscal
responsiblity, it is imperative that foreign travel be held to the minimum
level required to carry out USGS mission responsibilities. Potential travelers
and their supervisors should be alert particularly for opportunities for
individual employees attending foreign meetings to satisfactorily substitute
for other individuals proposing to present papers or carry out other duties
at those same meetings. to the extent that individual trips can be cancelled
or reduced by "doubling-up" assignments to other travelers, without significant
detriment to the travel mission, such cancellations and reductions will be
made. In this connection, it should be noted that neither attendance nor
presentation of a paper at a meeting are in themselves sufficient justification
for approval of foreign travel. Supervisors at each level are responsible
for approving only valid, adequately justified travel requests and for controlling
expenditures for foreign travel.
- Foreign Projects and Technical Assistance Activities -- The WRD
will participate formally only in those foreign activities that provide significant
benefits to the Division and for which qualified and interested individuals
can be made available without significant detriment to domestic programs.
Foreign projects and technical assistance activities normally will be undertaken
only on a fully reimbursable basis. The Assistant Chief Hydrologist for Research
and External Coordination (ACH/R&EC) will assist in negotiating reimbursable
agreements and must approve all funding proposals before they are presented
to the funding agency. Any use of funds appropriated to the USGS must be
approved in advance by the Chief Hydrologist. WRD personnel will not actively
seek participation in, and must not commit themselves or the WRD to undertake,
foreign projects, technical assistance, or related cooperative scientific
activities without prior approval by the Chief Hydrologist.
Foreign assignment opportunities, both short- and long-term, normally will
be announced to all personnel through the established vacancy announcement
system. Applications must be submitted through normal supervisory channels
to the ACH/R&EC.
- Foreign Exchange Scientists -- The WRD encourages exchanges of scientific
personnel with other countries when the anticipated benefits from such exchanges
clearly justify the Division's participation. A WRD employee must not make
commitments to participate as an exchange scientist in another country or
to host an exchnage scientist from another country without prior approval
by the Chief Hydrologist. Any use of USGS facilities or appropriated funds
in support of foreign exchange scientists must be fully justified by expected
benefits to USGS mission programs. Once preliminary approval has been granted
by the Chief Hydrologist, detailed arrangements for exchange scientists may
be made by the concerned project or office personnel with the advice and
assistance, as required, of the ACH/R&EC. No exchange agreement will be implemented
until the ACH/R&EC has given final approval. Information concerneing all
exchange scientist agreements and activities will be provided through normal
supervisory channels to the ACH/R&EC.
- Foreign Trainees -- The WRD periodically sponsors formal training courses
for foreign scientific and technical personnel and encourages WRD offices
and projects to provide opportunities for on-the-job training for foreign
participants. All such training will be provided on a reimbursable, cost-recovery
basis, with uniform charges to be determined by the ACH/R&EC. No commitments
will be made by WRD personnel to provide specific training opportunities
to groups or individuals from foreign countries without prior approval by
the Chief Hydrologist. Any use of appropriated funds or facilities for purposes
of training foreign students that exceeds in cost the specific reimbursement
must be fully justified by anticipated benefits to the WRD. All agreements
for training of foreign personnel must be approved by the ACH/R&EC. Only
training that can be done without significant detriment to the USGS domestic
mission will be approved.
- Foreign Visitors -- For the purposes of this memorandum, a "visitor" is
defined as a foreign scientist who visits the WRD at his own request, at
the request of his government or an international organization, or at the
request of another Federal agency, a college or university, or a private
contractor/consultant, to obtain information related to WRD programs and
activities, and that does not directly benefit WRD mission or program activities
by an exchange of scientific information. Because of the staff time that
must be expended to support these visits, it has become necessary to define
"visit" as a combined period of 5 or fewer days spent in one or more offices
of WRD. Any visitor's stay that exceeds a combined period of 5 days will
be defined as "training" and will be subject to the terms set forth in paragraph
D above. Division offices are encouraged to host foreign visitors as time
and opportunity permit. A brief summary of each visit msut be provided through
normal supervisory channels to the ACH/R&EC who may be contacted for advice
or guidance related to visit requests.
The ACH/R&EC is responsible for oversight and control of all official international
activities conducted by the WRD and its personnel. He or members of his staff
can provide explanatory or additional information on any aspect of WRD policies
related to international activities. Your cooperation in carrying out and
enforcing these policies will facilitate the Division's continued participation
in this professionally challenging and personally rewarding international
Distribution: A, B, S, FO, PO
This memorandum and WRD Memorandum No. 88.66 supersede WRD Memorandums No.
87.30 dated February 13, 1987, and 87.49 dated April 20, 1987.