Procurement Information Circular

October 13, 2010




PURPOSE:  This PIC lists items which require a special approval pursuant to Comptroller General Decisions, Federal regulation, or NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR).  The cardholder shall obtain approval from the appropriate official as identified below.  Approvals shall be documented in the cardholder’s order log or files. 


BACKGROUND:  The NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) section 1813.301, Government wide Commercial Purchase Card and NPR 9070, Government Charge Cards, provide policy on the use of and internal controls over purchase card.  In addition to this policy, there are also programmatic or legal restraints on purchasing certain items. These restraints are based on the type of item being ordered or determinations concerning the necessary expense of appropriated funds. 


GUIDANCE:  Cardholders shall obtain and document the special approvals listed herein prior to placing an order.  Centers may supplement this guidance to be more restrictive, require higher approval levels, or prohibit certain purchases.  Cardholders and approving officials are responsible for following any program or center-specific policy.


1.      Special Approvals



Approval Authority

Electronic and Information Technology (E&IT), including items such a lap tops, iPods, and cell phones, not purchased under the NASA IT contracts or blanket purchase agreements.

Center Chief Information Officer  (CIO)



Equipment, such as shop equipment, generators, compressors, construction equipment, power tools, etc., that emit sound at or above 80 dBA, measured at 1 meter distance from equipment surface.


Buy Quiet Program Coordinator

See NPR 1800.1

Critical, complex, or high-risk items subject to quality system requirements and Government surveillance.  Note these items require a purchase order to include the quality standards and shall only be purchased by cardholders with the appropriate contracting authority.

Center Safety Mission Assurance Official

See NPD 8730.5, Appendix A, and NPR 8735.2, Chapter 2

Flight hardware, critical ground support equipment (GSE)

Center GIDEP (Government-Industry Data Exchange Program) Representative

See NPR 8735.1

Hazardous substances and potentially hazardous substances and articles, such as chemical, toxic substance, etc.  See Appendix D to NPR 1800.1 for more examples.

Center Health/Safety Official

See NPR 1800.1

Radio transmitters or items containing radio transmitters

Center Spectrum Manager

See NPD 2570.5

Purchase, rent/lease, transfer, or exchange duplicating or copying equipment

Installation Printing Management Officer

See NPD 1490.1

Printing supplies or services

Center CIO  

See NFS 1808.802

Business Cards

Immediate supervisor of the employee requesting business cards

See NPD 9070.1


2.  Purchases Requiring Necessary Expense Determinations  


      (a)  All Purchase card orders must comply with the necessary expense doctrine.  The “necessary expense” doctrine allows expenditures, not specifically provided for in an agency’s appropriation, only if the expenditure is reasonably necessary to carry out an authorized function of an agency, or will contribute materially to the effective accomplishment of an agency’s function, and is not otherwise prohibited by law.  Purchases involving necessary expense determinations shall be coordinated through the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) at the Centers or the Office of General Counsel (OGC) at NASA Headquarters and documented in the cardholder’s records. 


      (b)  The items listed below are frequently purchased inappropriately either because the cardholder did not know about or misapplied the necessary expense doctrine.   Both cardholders and approving officials are responsible for ensuring NASA’s funds are used only for authorized purchases.  Before purchasing any of the items listed below, the cardholder must ask whether the acquisition satisfies the necessary expense rule, and further, whether it t is a wise use of taxpayer money.  The type of item purchased, the cost of the item, and its purpose must all be considered when making a determination that the acquisition is an appropriate use of appropriated funds.   The cardholder shall document the order log referencing the OGC determination authorizing the particular purchase when circumstances permit purchase of the items listed below.    


      (c)  Cardholders and their approving officials are cautioned that, while it may be permissible to purchase a certain item under the necessary expense doctrine, Agency or Center policy may prohibit, restrict, or apply internal controls on the purchase or use of the item.


3.  Awards and Gifts


      (a)  Appropriated funds may not be used for personal gifts or items (food, clothing), unless there is specific statutory authority.  Cardholders may purchase items for the purpose of informal non-monetary awards for NASA employees in accordance NPR 3451.1, NASA Awards and Recognition Program, and their center’s awards program and procedures. 


      (b)  The item’s value shall be de minis. Cardholders shall document in their logs the name of the supervisor or manager who approved the award and the individual to whom the award was presented. 


      (c)  The use of prepaid gift or cash cards as awards is prohibited. .


4.  Clothing


      (a) Generally, there are three circumstances under which cardholders may purchase clothing:


            (1)  Required uniforms or clothing with identifying insignia, i.e., NASA logo, and when there is a job-related requirement for the employee to wear this clothing. 


            (2)  Personal protective equipment and clothing, such as footwear or eyewear, and so forth, required for health and safety reasons while performing official duties, or


            (3) Awards as discussed in section 3.


5.  Entertainment and Recreational Items.  The purchase of any form of entertainment (such as dancers, musicians, or singers) or recreational items (games, sports equipment) is generally prohibited.  .


6.  Food Preparation and Handling Equipment, Including, but Not Limited to Coffee Pots, Microwaves, or Refrigerators.


      (a)  Appropriations are available to pay for items ordinarily considered to be personal in nature, such as kitchen appliances, when the primary benefit of their use accrues to the agency, notwithstanding a collateral benefit to the individual. 


      (b)  Center procedural requirements concerning facilities/safety issues related to these items must be addressed before purchase.


7.  Light Refreshments or Meals


      (a)  Cardholders shall not purchase light refreshments or meals unless there is a specific regulatory authority allowing them to do so.  The following authorities may allow the use of appropriated funds to purchase refreshments: 


            (1) Government Employees Training Act (GETA), 

            (3) Federal Travel Regulations (determined by GSA), 

            (4) Government Employees’ Incentive Awards Act (GEIAA)


Ordering alcoholic beverages with purchase card is forbidden.  


8.  Membership Fees for Individual Employees in Professional Associations.  5 U.S.C. 5946(1) prohibits the use of appropriated funds to pay for individual employee memberships in professional associations and societies.  However, the use of appropriated funds to pay membership fees in a private organization is not prohibited by Federal regulations when the membership is purchased in the agency's name.  In addition, the proposed membership must primarily benefit NASA, not its individual employees.


9.  Mementos or souvenirs.  Under approved circumstances, mementos or souvenirs, such magnets, pens, pins, stickers, or tote bags, may be purchased and distributed to the general public and NASA employees when there is a direct link between the items and the purpose of the appropriation charged.  When purchasing these items, cardholders must document their logs noting the statutory authority which allows purchase of this item or have specific approval from their OGC to purchase the item.  (The Office of General Counsel Memorandum, dated

December 22, 2003, contains additional guidance on the authority to purchase souvenirs.  The memorandum is available on the Purchase Card web site at


CANCELLATION:  PICs 06-13 and 07-10 are hereby cancelled.


EFFECTIVE DATE:  This PIC is effective as dated and will remain in effect until canceled or superseded.


HEADQUARTERS CONTACT:  R. Todd Lacks, Contract and Grant Policy Division, (202) 358-0799, email:



James Balinskas

Director, Contract Management Division




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