If you do an overseas tour for Uncle Sam, he will get you there and back, transport your family and many household goods. But don't ask him to reconnect the antipollution device on your car after it has been gulping unleaded fuel in Europe, Asia or the Far East.
That is what a Defense Department aide from Maryland learned when he came home--with his car--from an assignment in Germany.
Because unleaded fuel is hard to come by overseas, the U.S. government will allow a vehicle back into this country only if it can be proven that its catalytic converter was not used abroad. Most vehicles made in this country since 1976 have the devices, which can be destroyed by unleaded fuel.
Knowing this, DOD has a program to disconnect converters here before the cars are sent overseas, then reconnect them when they return stateside. Individuals are supposed to pay for the work.
But the Maryland man said the $125 he paid to have his converter reconverted to the American way of fighting pollution should be part of the expenses the government picks up. Defense said no.
The case went to the General Accounting Office.
It ruled that since the duty station (Germany) did not require the catalytic converter to be disconnected, the government could not, and would not, consider it part of the cost of moving.
If the Maryland man had been transferred to California, which has tougher antipollution standards than the rest of the country, the government could have paid for the disconnection and reconnection.
But Germany, GAO said, is not California. Hence no $125 refund.