Feature

Outside Activities


 

Introduction

Employees are subject to a number of limitations on their outside activities. Most importantly, employees may not  be involved in outside activities that conflict with their official duties. An activity conflicts with official duties: 

  • if it is prohibited by statute or regulation, or
  • if the activity would require the employee to be disqualified from matters so central to the performance of the employee's official duties as to materially impair the employee's ability to carry out those duties.
Employees generally may not be paid for outside teaching, speaking and writing related to NASA policies, programs, or operations. They also may not use their official titles or positions (except as part of a biography or for identification as the author of an article with an appropriate disclaimer) to promote a book, seminar, course, program or any other outside activity. 

Employees may engage in fundraising in a personal capacity, as long as they don't solicit funds from subordinates or from anyone who does business with the Agency. Also, employees may not use or permit the use of their official titles, positions or authority to promote the fundraising effort. 
 

NASA Rules

NASA has published a regulation governing outside activities at 5 CFR Part 6901. This regulation serves three purposes: it defines what outside activities are covered by the regulation, it prohibits certain types of activities, and it sets out the process for approval of outside activities.

What activities are covered by NASA's rules?

NASA's regulation only covers activities that meet the definition of outside employment. Employment, in general terms, means business relationships, but not most community services.  Technically, outside employment means any form of compensated or uncompensated non-Federal employment or business relationship involving the provision of personal services by the employee. It includes, but is not limited to, personal services as an officer, director, employee, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor, general partner, trustee, teacher, or speaker. It includes writing when done under an arrangement with another person for production or publication of the written product. It does not, however, include participation in the activities of a nonprofit charitable, religious, professional, social, fraternal, educational, recreational, public service, or civic organization, unless the organization is a prohibited source or unless such activities involve the provision of professional services or advice, or are for compensation other than reimbursement of expenses. 

What outside activities does NASA prohibit?

NASA doesn't prohibit much. Basically, NASA employees are not allowed to be, in effect, subcontractors to NASA. More precisely, a NASA employee may not engage in outside employment with (1) a NASA contractor, subcontractor, or grantee in connection with work performed by that entity for NASA; or (2) a party to a Space Act agreement, Commercial Launch Act agreement, or other agreement to which NASA is a party pursuant to specific statutory authority, if the employment is in connection with work performed under that agreement.  

For what outside activities does NASA require advance approval?

The approval process is the most important issue for the majority of outside activities. NASA requires advance approval for outside employment involving the following: 

  • Teaching, speaking, writing, or editing, unless the subject matter pertains to the private interests of the employee, such as a hobby, cultural activity, or nonwork related professional pursuit;
  • The practice of a profession or the rendering of professional consulting services;
  • The management or conduct of a business in which the employee or the employee's spouse has an ownership interest;
  • Holding a State or local public office, whether by election or appointment;
  • Employment with a NASA contractor, subcontractor, or grantee;
  • Employment with a party to a Space Act agreement, Commercial Launch Act agreement, or other agreement to which NASA is a party pursuant to specific statutory authority;
  • Serving as an officer, trustee, or member of a board, directorate, or other such body of a for profit organization or of a nonprofit organization that is a prohibited source; or
  • Employment which involves the practice of a NASA-owned invention.

Even when not required, a NASA employee who is in doubt as to the propriety of outside employment or another outside activity may request prior approval using the procedures set forth in the regulation.

How do I get approval for an outside activity?

A request for approval of outside employment has to be in writing, and has to include the following: 

  • The employee's name and occupational title;
  • The nature of the employment, including a full description of the specific duties or services to be performed;
  • The name and address of the person or organization for which work will be done;
  • The estimated total time that will be devoted to the activity. If the employment is on a continuing basis, indicate the estimated number of hours per year; for other employment, indicate the anticipated beginning and ending date;
  • A statement as to whether the work can be performed entirely outside of the employee's regular duty hours and, if not, the estimated number of hours of absence from work that will be required;
  • The amount of compensation, if any, to be received; and
  • A statement that the employee currently has no official duties involving a matter that affects the outside employer and will disqualify from future participation in matters that could directly affect the outside employer.
If you are required to file a public financial disclosure report (members of the SES and senior level employees) or hold a position as astronaut, astronaut candidate, procurement officer, or chief counsel, the Headquarters Associate Administrator for Human Resources and Education approves or disapproves your  request. Before you send it to Code F, you need to get a recommendation from your Associate Administrator or Center Director and concurrence of the General Counsel. 

For everyone else, the appropriate Associate Administrator or Center Director (or a person designated to act for the Center Director) approves or disapproves requests with concurrence of their supervisor and the appropriate legal office.  For NASA Headquarters personnel that means the Associate General Counsel (General); and for Center personnel it means their Center's Chief Counsel.