Some Federal Government Executives Purchase Their Own Business Cards

Some Federal Government Executives Purchase Their Own Business Cards

The Un-Perk: Some Federal Executives Have to Buy Their Own Business Cards

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is one of them.

Americans weary of federal overspending may have been surprised on March 19, 2017 to hear Trump administration budget director Mick Mulvaney tell a television audience that employees of the Office of Management and Budget have to pony up their own money to pay for business cards.

“I don’t have a business card to give to you today,” Mulvaney told CBS News “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson in response to a question about proposed budget cuts in social spending. Because, “at the Office of Management and Budget, we have to pay for our own business cards. So it does start at home, but it’s already started,” he said.

The requirement that OMB's staff of 529 purchase their own business cards isn't new. The policy dates back decades, veterans of previous administrations told Government Executive.

A Government Executive sampling of federal offices found that agencies differ on whether employees must shell out for what many professionals consider a necessity, not a perk.

The government’s central supply agent, the General Services Administration, “does not write a policy for employee business cards,” a spokesman said. “The authority to print and pay for business cards resides with each individual agency, bureau or office.”

Inquiries to several OMB alumni going back through the Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton administrations show that, as one put it, “all OMB employees, even politicals, had to buy their own cards.”

The situation varies at other agencies. At the Homeland Security Department, it is “policy to facilitate agency-related communications by managing a cost-efficient process for providing business cards to employees who have extensive dealings with the business community, the public, and other government entities,” according to a spokesman, who cited a 2003 directive from when the department was stood up.

The Internal Revenue Service “does not make employees buy their own business cards,” an agency statement said.

At the Treasury Department, IRS’ parent organization, the situation is more complicated. “Treasury does not currently have a formal policy in place, but work is underway to have a business card policy approved and in place later this year,” said a spokeswoman. She noted she is not speaking for bureaus within Treasury or special offices that fall under specific enabling legislation or non-appropriated funding sources, such as the Office of Financial Research.

Currently, each office decides on employees' need for business cards. “If your position is determined to be one for which you need business cards, the agency will order and pay for them," the spokeswoman said. "Otherwise, you must pay for your own.”

At the State Department, business cards are provided to those at high levels, one veteran said.



Senior Correspondent

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books, and organizational media strategies.
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