Special Government Employees and Foreign Activities

All U.S. Government employees, including certain Special Government Employees (SGEs), are subject to legal restrictions concerning foreign activities. SGEs are Government employees who are appointed to temporary service on an advisory committee (i.e., NIH Institute/Center Advisory Council, Board of Scientific Counselors, or Program Advisory Committee) or, in some cases, as individual experts or consultants. Although SGEs may spend fewer than 10 days per year in an NIH position, many Government regulations apply to them, including, for some, the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which may limit acceptance of funds from foreign sources.

As an SGE, you are required to complete and submit the enclosed Foreign Activities Questionnaire, HHS 697 form. Some have found the questions and process confusing. Questions may arise concerning what is allowable and whether prior commitments made to foreign entities can be fulfilled while serving as an SGE for the NIH. This information sheet provides additional information, answers questions, clarifies the information required by the Foreign Activities Questionnaire, and provides names, phone numbers, and email addresses of people to contact for further clarification. We want to reassure you that we will work to resolve any problems, and usually you will be able to carry out all of your activities.


To whom and when does the Emoluments Clause apply?


What is the Emoluments Clause?

What foreign activities should I report under Question 1 of the Foreign Activities Questionnaire?

What is meant by a foreign government or political subdivision of a foreign government? Question 2 of the Foreign Activities Questionnaire asks me to describe whether the foreign university is independent of the foreign government. How would I know this? How do I respond to this?

To find out if an organization is considered to be a foreign government or entity, please see the Contacts list at the end of this document.

Question 3 of the Foreign Activities Questionnaire asks me to describe tangible or intangible gifts that I anticipate receiving from foreign entities during my tenure as an SGE. What should I be reporting here?

Are there any exceptions?

The application of the Emoluments Clause and the FGDA cannot be waived. However, NIH officials will work with you to determine whether certain activities may be permitted with those foreign entities otherwise considered part of a foreign government. Congressional consent affords certain exceptions to the rule, details of which can be found in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act. We have compiled the following list of guiding principles to help you determine which activities and gifts are exempt, and which are not.

If you have any questions about exceptions, please contact either your Committee Management Officer or Deputy Ethics Counselor (see Contacts).

As an SGE, what do I have to do with respect to the Emoluments Clause and the FGDA?

If you have any questions, please contact:

IC Committee Management Officers <http://www1.od.nih.gov/cmo/map/index.html - choose About Us and click on OFACP & CMO Staff Directory>

IC Deputy Ethics Counselors <http://ethics.od.nih.gov/decs.pdf>


HHS-697 Foreign Activities Questionnaire http://www1.od.nih.gov/cmo/map/index.html

NIH Administrative Fact Sheet for Special Government Employees http://www1.od.nih.gov/cmo/map/index.html

Updated April 15, 2008