Can APF funds be used to purchase decorations for a NAF activity event?
Unfortunately, there is not as clear cut an answer to this question as I would like.
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When I first read the question, I could not shake my concern that this sounds like a Misappropriation Act violation. I was completely prepared to answer not just NO, but hidey-heck NO, because the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has long held that appropriated funds may not be used to acquire items that are not specifically set forth in an appropriation act. The GAO routinely sites 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a) as their justification. 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a) states, “Appropriations shall be applied to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law.” Just for clarity, 31 U.S.C. § 1301 is the Misappropriation Act.
So, already feeling that I knew the answer, but wanting to be thorough in my research, I realized that this question has come from a person in the US Air Force. It made perfect sense to validate my opposition to using APF funds to purchase decorations for a NAF activity event, by determining if any Air Force regulation also speaks to this issue. However, what I found was not what I was expecting.
Air Force Instruction (AFI) 65-601, Volume 1, Budget Guidance and Procedures (dated 16 August 2012, Incorporating Change 1, 29 July 2015) actually talks about the use of APFs for Holiday Observances in Section 4K. Specifically, AFI65-601V1, section 4K, paragraph 4.28.2 says (in regards to Holiday Observances), “Installation Commanders may approve the use of appropriated funds (APFs) to purchase decorations on a case by case basis. Be prudent when using APFs for this purpose. The following conditions apply. Purchase decorations only where all installation personnel may benefit from their use, e.g., a decorated Headquarters building, base Christmas tree, or decorated foyer of the Headquarters building. Do not use APFs to purchase decorations for the interior of government offices or for personal use. The decorations may not be religious in character. Also, do not use APFs to purchase or mail seasonal greeting cards.”
Conclusion: While I would have said NO to using APF funds to purchase decorations for a NAF activity event based on the Misappropriation Act, AFI65-601V1, section 4K, paragraph 4.28.2 very clearly says that the decision belongs to the Installation Commander.
Suggestions: Read AFI65-601V1, paying particular attention to all of section 4K. In addition, it is most strongly recommended that you contact the Installation Commander, your local comptroller organization, and legal counsel for more information and their policy interpretation of this issue.