Special Morale Welfare

Special Morale and Welfare

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'

Nonappropriated Funds (Special Morale and Welfare (SM&W) Funds)

Special morale and welfare funds (SM&W) are nonappropriated expenditures, over and above those which support the basic MWR program, which the commander personally considers necessary to contribute to the overall morale and welfare of the military community. Before 1989, there was some overlap between SM&W; authority and APF official representation funds. Both funds were similar in purpose, and NAFs could be used when appropriated funds were not available under the umbrella that the funds were used for the troops. As a result, SM&W expenses almost tripled between 1969 and 1989. A series of audits resulted in conclusions that some of the SM&W expenditures were inappropriate and some of the controls were inadequate. The audits ended with an April 1989 DoD memorandum containing strong language relative to protocol activity:

  • .Nonappropriated funds are to be used for the general welfare of the community. NAF may not be used for command representation or protocol functions, scholarships, or to provide any other specific benefit for select individuals or groups. NAF will also not be used to replace or to supplement appropriations for public affairs, medical, religious, or other activities outside the defined MWR program

The greatest impact of this memorandum was in the area of the commander's discretionary SM&W authority, as many of those expenditures appeared to be expressly prohibited by the language of the DoD memorandum.

In August 1989, the Air Force Chief of Staff announced new guidance that contained sweeping changes to make the SM&W program consistent with the new DoD guidance. Current policy goes back to this August 1989 summary:

  • Protocol and Official Representation: SM&W funds prohibited support for any purpose which qualified for official representation funds: no meals, no entertainment, no support for protocol-type functions for government personnel, and no support for protocol or command representation functions.

As a result, it is now critically important to distinguish between those functions which qualify for the use of representation funds, and those which do not.

  • Meals:
    • No SM&W support for any meals for TDY government personnel
    • No SM&W support for meals for government personnel not on TDY
    • Two exceptions:
      • award winners under individual recognition programs
        • This rationale stems from a series of comptroller general decisions and applies to the use of APFs and NAFs: Government personnel who are in a TDY status will pay for their meals since they are reimbursed for meal expenses. If not on TDY, they must still pay for their meals since food is a personal expense, and government salaries are presumed adequate to pay for meals.
      • Regarding meals for non-government personnel, SM&W funds may not be used for events which are authorized appropriated funds support. The new rules allow buying meals for non-government personnel in conjunction with civic affairs and events furthering the unit's morale by promoting and fostering good relations between Air Force personnel and civilian communities
  • Amenities: The old guidance defines amenities as "gestures of normal hospitality in keeping with courtesy and civility." Liberal interpretation resulted in high expenses for mementos, receptions, luncheons, and dinners. The new guidance is for more restrictive:
    • No SM&W amenities for circumstances which qualify for APF support
    • This includes those officials authorized to be entertained under APF official representation authority
    • Mementos were permitted, but to a $10 limit. This limit has since been increased to $20
    • No SM&W support for amenities that were not specifically authorized
  • Fruit baskets: These grew more lavish under the old guidance. Some MAJCOMs banned them altogether; later guidance "discouraged" fruit baskets; however, that sentence has recently been deleted. Check with your local commander and your MAJCOM on their policy regarding fruit baskets (or flowers) for DVs.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Old guidance permitted SM&W support for modest use of alcoholic beverages at authorized functions. The new policy prohibits free and open bars at any function, and specifically excludes alcohol from the permissible refreshments at conferences, seminars, meetings, and similar activities.
    • In a concession to military tradition, SM&W support is permitted for free beer at commander's call.
  • Entertainment: The old guidance permitted some SM&W support to entertain visitors on a conservative basis, when approved by the commander. The new guidance totally bans SM&W support for any meals, entertainment, and protocol-type functions for governmental personnel. It permits light refreshments (no alcohol) for conferences, meetings, seminars, and other occasions when deemed appropriate. Check your local commander's policy and your MAJCOM's policy for limits and further guidance.

    For functions which do not qualify for official representation funds, SM&W funds can presumably pay the pro-rata share of expenses for non-governmental guests. Thus there are some functions in which you may use a combination of SM&W funds and contingency funds to cover expenses. Prior to approval and coordination are always best. Note that SM&W funds cannot substitute for or supplement the official representation funds.

    Having government employees pay for their own way is always the simplest policy.
  • Funeral Observances: The old guidance was ambiguous on SM&W support for funeral observations. The new guidance allows SM&W support to provide flowers (or contributions in lieu of flowers) for memorial observances for deceased members and their immediate families. Check with your local commander and your MAJCOM for policy and dollar limits.
  • Change of Command Functions: The old guidance implied SM&W support under the provision that allowed memorial observances which upheld the traditions of the service. The new guidance specifically authorizes modest SM&W support for these functions, and suggests that MAJCOMs may set dollar limits. Check with your local commander and MAJCOM for policy and dollar limits.
    • As with Official Representation Funds, you must obtain advance approval prior to all SM&W expenditures. Check with your local commander and MAJCOM for established procedures to ensure that all SM&W expenditures are approved in advance. Under no circumstances are you to obligate SM&W funds without this prior approval. If you do so, you are liable to pay these expenses from your own personal funds.
  • Summary of Changes: The basic philosophy behind the new rules is fairly simple and is non-negotiable. SM&W expenditures must:
    • Be in the best interest of the AF and benefit the military community
    • Be conservative
    • Not be limited to specific grades or levels of personnel or both
    • Not be used in place of official appropriate funds