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Fiscal woes in Washington have not prevented the federal government from buying 29,000 new vehicles over the past six years. That brings the federal government’s fleet of cars to 449,000, nearly one for every seven federal employees, according to the Detroit News, based on a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs added 5,400 vehicles, an increase of 49 percent. The increase comes as the overall number of veterans has declined but VA officials say they have stepped up programs for veterans with disabilities.
The ever-expanding Department of Homeland Security added 18,200 vehicles, for an increase of 48 percent. The Department of Agriculture grew its vehicle total by 5 percent. Alternative fuel vehicles, using ethanol or batteries, are up 14-33 percent according to the report.
According to the GAO, eight federal agencies account for 79 percent of federal vehicles. The General Services Administration, which oversees the federal fleet, is buying 116 plug-in electric vehicles including 10 Nissan Leafs and 101 Chevrolet Volts. The Volt is manufactured by General Motors, which along with Chrysler got $17.4 billion from the federal government’s bailout fund plus $6 billion for GMAC, the General Motors Acceptance Corporation.
GM’s profits fell 41 percent in the second quarter, with an operating loss of $361 million in Europe. In North America, GM’s profits fell from $2.25 billion to $1.97 billion. In July, GM deliveries decreased by 6.4 percent. The U.S. Treasury owns 26 percent of General Motors but by one account GM’s stock price would have to increase to $50 before U.S. taxpayers break even.
The GAO makes no recommendations in its report on the federal vehicle fleet but notes that, while overall numbers are up, some federal departments managed to reduce their vehicle fleets. The Treasury Department trimmed its fleet by 13 percent, the Navy by 17 percent and the Interior Department by 9 percent. Last year, the U.S. Air Force cut 739 vehicles from its fleet.
For the GSA, meanwhile, bulking up on Chevy Volts has not been an isolated expense. Since 2008 the federal agency, with a budget of about $20 billion, has handed out more than $1 million in bonuses not to top performers but dozens of employees under investigation for misconduct.