Millions Wasted With Federal Cars and Airplanes Says GAO

GAO says the federal government doesn’t really know how many cars and airplanes it owns or what it costs to maintain them.

Can you imagine owning a car, parking it, and then leaving it untouched for four years without even knowing where the keys were to start it?

Most of us don’t have that kind of money. But, apparently, the federal government does have that much money.

Two new General Accounting Office (GAO) reports released by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) show that federal agencies are wasting millions of dollars on government-owned cars and mismanaging the federal aircraft fleet.

Federal agencies spend approximately $1.7 billion annually to operate a fleet of about 387,000 vehicles. GAO found that many federal agencies could not justify the number of vehicles they owned given what they needed to meet their mission requirements.

And, while cars are expensive, aircraft are even more so. But, having said that, losing track of them is apparently easy also when there are so many around federal agencies.

GAO says it could not determine how many airplanes are owned by federal agencies. It also could not determine how much it costs to maintain these airplanes. GSA has a database that tracks ownership of Uncle Sam’s planes but, says GAO, it isn’t accurate.

The GSA database showed federal agencies owned about 1,400 aircraft and agencies reported spending more than $700 million to operate and maintain them in fiscal year 2002. GAO estimates that this understates the cost of federal aircraft operations by at least $568 million over the past three years.

You can download the GAO reports from the links on the left hand side of this page.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47