The OMB Circulars A-76, "Performance of Commercial Activities," and A-126, "Improving the Management and Use of Government Aircraft (Revised)," are the controlling regulations for the acquisition and use of civilian, government aircraft. These Circulars prescribe policies to be followed by Executive Branch agencies in acquiring, managing, using, accounting for the cost of, and disposing of aircraft.

Circular A-76, dated August 4, 1983, establishes that the government should not compete with its citizens and, in recognition of the competitive enterprise system, states that the general policy of the government is to rely on commercial sources to supply the products and services it needs.

The purpose of Circular A-126, dated May 22, 1992, is to minimize cost and improve the management and use of government aviation resources. The Circular restricts the operation of government aircraft to defined official purposes, restricts travel on such aircraft, requires special review of such travel on government aircraft by senior officials or non-Federal travelers in specified circumstances, and codifies policies for reimbursing the use of government aircraft.

Circular A-126 tasks GSA with certain aircraft management functions which include:

coordinating the development of effectiveness measures and standards, recommending policy, and providing guidance for the procurement, operation, safety, and disposal of civilian agency aircraft; and

operating a governmentwide aircraft management information system.

However, the accountability and responsibility for the management of individual aircraft remain with the agencies to whom the aircraft are assigned.

41 Code of Federal Regulations 101-37, "Government Aviation Administration And Coordination," incorporates applicable provisions of both of these OMB Circulars. Further, the regulations include additional policies and procedures for the efficient and effective management of aviation resources, to include safety.

DOJ Order 2460.1, entitled, "Aircraft Management," effective October 1, 1990, requires DOJ components to comply with OMB Circulars A-76 and A-126. The Order also prescribes general policies and procedures for the management and use of Departmental aircraft.

The two OMB Circulars and DOJ Order 2460.1, insofar as they pertain to cost comparisons to commercial activities, were effectively rendered moot when, in October 1991, Congress passed Public Law 101-515, Title II, DOJ Appropriations Act. Section 212 restricted the applicability of OMB Circular A-76 and ". . . any similar provisions in any other order or directive" for the Department's law enforcement and litigating activities. This restriction was for FYs 1991 and 1992. However, the restriction was not extended for later fiscal years.

The Federal Aviation Regulations, 14 Code of Federal Regulations, set forth the regulations for operating aircraft. These regulations define public use and civil aircraft as follows:

Public Use Aircraft: Aircraft used only in the service of a government or a political subdivision. It does not include any government-owned aircraft engaged in carrying persons or property for commercial purposes.

Civil Aircraft: Aircraft other than public use aircraft.

The parts of the Federal Aviation Regulations which primarily apply to the USMS air operations are listed below.

Part 61, "Airmen," prescribes the requirements for aircrew members to operate aircraft.

Part 91, "Air Traffic and General Operating Rules," sets forth the basic rules for aircraft operations.

Part 121, "Air Carriers, Air Travel Clubs, and Operators for Compensation or Hire: Certification and Operations," prescribes the requirements for aircrew members and rules for aircraft operations of air carriers.

Part 125, "Certification and Operations: Airplanes Having a Seating Capacity of 20 or More Passengers or a Maximum Payload Capacity of 6,000 Pounds or More," prescribes the requirements for aircrew members and rules for aircraft operations with a seating capacity of 20 or more or a maximum payload capacity of 6,000 pounds or more.

Parts 61, 91, 121, and 125 generally only apply to civil aircraft. Operators of public use aircraft need only follow air traffic controllers' instructions, minimum altitude requirements, and observance of Federal Aviation Administration established right-of-ways. The Federal Aviation Requirements are normally considered the minimum standards for operating aircraft and have proven to be safe and reliable standards to follow.

Subsequent to our audit period, the President signed into law the Independent Safety Board Act Amendments.  The Amendments changed the definition of public use aircraft and brought more government-owned aircraft engaged in passenger and cargo-carrying operations under Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations.  Effective April 23, 1995, aircraft owned by non-military governmental agencies will be subject to the same Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations that apply to operators of civil aircraft.  Currently, USMS aviation management is assessing the impact of the new legislation on operations so that appropriate actions may be taken.