Travel Card Blues

Federal Times:Army civilian reassigned job over refusal to get travel card

Come April, Gene Lenning will have a new job for the first time in 14 years. But not by his choice.
Lenning enjoys his work as a chief engineer at the Missile Defense Agency̢۪s ground-based interceptor project in Huntsville, Ala., and wants to stay. And he says the quality of his work is not an issue. In fact, he said, half an hour after he found out about the move, Lenning received a $2,000 cash award for outstanding performance.

Lenning says he is being moved to the Space and Missile Defense Command also in Huntsville — and off the ground-based interceptor project — because he refuses to sign up for a government travel card.

Lenning has two objections to the travel card: First, he said, using a travel card puts him at risk of identity theft. He does not want to give his Social Security number to Bank of America, which provides travel cards for Defense Department employees. Lenning is concerned that the bank could sell his Social Security number to another party.

Lenning has a personal credit card with another company, but he said that bank will withhold his information if he asks. He said Bank of America̢۪s travel card does not have that option.

Second, Lenning said, waiting for Defense to reimburse him and the bank for charges on a card under his name puts his credit rating at risk. If Defense is late repaying Bank of America, Lenning said, the bank could turn his account over to a collection agency or credit agency, which will hurt his credit.

Interesting. Lenning’s concerns aren’t unwarranted but they seem rather strained. I wish it were otherwise, but protecting one’s identity is virtually impossible in the high tech age. And government workers (and, indeed, most managerial employees everywhere) have long had to go out of pocket on travel expenses and then get reimbursed and they usually make you fill out reams of paperwork on top of the wait time. When I was a college professor, it was not at all unusual–which is not to say I liked it–to have to wait four or five months to get reimbursed for rather sizable travel costs.

Lenning said the travel problems have disrupted his job. The latest problem was that, because Lenning could not travel, he was forced to miss an important March 9 meeting in Tucson to review designs for the project.


The new job will pay the same salary and benefits and is not a demotion, Lenning said. But he still does not want to leave his job and the relationships he has with his co-workers and bosses.

He’s damned lucky. People get fired for a whole lot less.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Dunshee says:

    These same things have proved to be problems for military personnel that have travel cards. Especially the reimbursement. Many soldiers have had their credit ratings ruined because the military was slow to reimburse. The ID theft is kind of flaky, but the reimbursement problem is very real.

  2. cj says:

    I agree. If your employer requires you to travel on business, they should issue a credit card for which THEY are responsible for payment.

    Working at a government entity (state university), this was a real issue. I understand their position — travel cards are open to abuse. Nonetheless, the university also had an issue with timely payment to its creditors — sometimes forcing vendors to revoke purchasing privileges for the whole institution.

    If there are employees who abuse corporate credit cards, they should be dealt with in a timely manner (timely manner being a whole new concept to the institution — hey, maybe suffering the consequences thereof is actually a GOOD thing for the entity). The fact that an institution does not conduct its business matters in a timely and ethical manner should NEVER be visited upon its employees — in either credit reports or dunning for payment.

  3. whatever says:

    First, instead of using “travel card”, how about we use “employee issued credit card”?

    So he’s afraid of losing his credit rating so he loses his job, which lowers his credit rating. Yeah, makes sense to me.

    I have been in similar circumstances, and with small amounts, you end up “loaning” your employer money (you make the payment and end up waiting to get reimbursed by your employer instead of the credit card company). This issue, of course, is not possible with a lot of people who don’t have the “float” to cover their employer’s expenses while they wait to get reimbursed – and isn’t possible with, say, an overseas trip that cost 1000s of dollars.

    In these cases, you make the credit card people wait, but I think there are ways to protect your credit rating if your employer is slow to pay.

  4. jen says:

    The government has two credit cards it issues – the travel card, which is paid for by the employee and the purchase card, which is paid for by the employer.

    I can’t speak for other government offices, but our office always reimburses employee expenses within a couple weeks of receiving the request. More often it’s within days. I know this because I pay all of the bills, I type the checks, I reconcile the credit card bills, etc.

    If other government office budget analysts are not able to pay within 30 days, which is the required timeframe for expense reimbursement according to the FAR (Prompt Payment Act or something), if I recall correctly, then there’s a serious problem.