Can Operations and Maintenance Army appropriated funds be used to purchase give away items at civilian/military job fairs?
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According to US Code:
10 U.S. Code § 2261 - Presentation of recognition items for recruitment and retention purposes
(a) Expenditures for Recognition Items.—Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense, appropriated funds may be expended—
(1) to procure recognition items of nominal or modest value for recruitment or retention purposes; and
(2) to present such items—
(A) to members of the armed forces; and
(B) to members of the families of members of the armed forces, and other individuals, recognized as providing support that substantially facilitates service in the armed forces.
(b) Provision of Meals and Refreshments.—
For purposes of section 520c of this title and any regulation prescribed to implement that section, functions conducted for the purpose of presenting recognition items described in subsection (a) shall be treated as recruiting functions, and recipients of such items shall be treated as persons who are the objects of recruiting efforts.
(c) Recognition Items of Nominal or Modest Value.—
In this section, the term “recognition item of nominal or modest value” means a commemorative coin, medal, trophy, badge, flag, poster, painting, or other similar item that is valued at less than $50 per item and is designed to recognize or commemorate service in the armed forces.
AR 601-280, Chapter 2, page 8 states:
n. Serve as retention officer. All commanders, by virtue of their position, are retention officers for their specific
command. This duty may not be delegated except as authorized in paragraph 1–9h. The retention officer will—
(1) Make continuing estimates of the Army Retention Programs (Active Army and RC) for future planning.
(2) Submit recommendations for retention policies or changes to policies.
(3) Translate retention decisions and plans into orders and ensure distribution of the orders to subordinate units.
(4) Exercise supervision, including inspections as necessary, to ensure that retention policies are executed properly.
(5) Be alert for factors that hinder retention efforts.
(6) Maintain contact with local finance personnel and public information offices.
(7) Conduct frequent personal visits to units to disseminate current information and assure maximum involvement at
all levels of command.
(8) Coordinate with the servicing comptroller office on funds governed under DFAS–IN Regulation 37–100 to
ensure proper use of funds received to include support of tenant units on the installation.
(9) All promotional items purchased with retention funds will be directed at the retention effort and will contain
retention specific logos or advertisements. Additionally, each item purchased will not exceed a reasonable cost in
accordance with 10 USC 2261.
Also, the GAO has weighed in on this issue in the past:
General Rule: The use of appropriated funds to buy giveaway items such as plaques, cuff links, bracelets, ashtrays, greeting cards, paper-weights, cigarette lighters, novelty trash-cans, keychains and similar mementos is prohibited. All such giveaway items are viewed by the General Accounting Office (GAO) as personal gifts, the purchase of which does not constitute a necessary and proper use of appropriated funds. GAO has long held that appropriated funds may not be used to acquire items that are not specifically set forth in an appropriation act.
Exceptions: The only exception for purchasing giveaway items is when there is a direct connection between such items and the purpose for which the appropriation was made, and if the item is essential to the carrying out of such purposes.
So, unless the items are for member of the Armed Forces and intended for retention purposes OR, the O&M funds are specifically appropriated for “to purchase give away items at civilian/military job fairs”, you cannot use the funds for the stated purpose below of purchasing water bottles to hand out at civilian and military job fairs. Also, given this is an Army question, I would really recommend you consult a JAG to truly get a better read on the fiscal law implications of this scenario.