Pentagon Car Rentals: We Don’t Try Harder

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The old saying is that no one washes a rental car. It’s a little bit different at the Pentagon. Over there, they rent a lot of cars for travel by staff in and around the capital. They don’t need to wash many of them, either – because they drive them so rarely.

That’s the bottom line in a Pentagon inspector general’s report released Thursday showing that 511 of the 774 vehicles leased by four Pentagon offices in 2011 – two out of every three – weren’t driven enough miles annually to warrant their rental.

It’s a case study of Pentagon waste easily understood by taxpayers. They may not know how many miles a tank tread should last, or how many miles per gallon an F-16 gets, but know that when you rent a car – and don’t drive it very far – you’re paying too much for it. Pentagon regulations require leased vehicles travel at least 12,000 miles annually.

Eighty-nine of the vehicles were driven less than 1,000 miles each. The Navy, Defense Logistics Agency, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and the Washington Headquarters Services agency lacked controls to ensure they leased only needed vehicles. As a result, they spent $2 million annually on the leases when they should have spent only $800,000.

The so-called “non-tactical vehicles” leased included cars and vans used to carry people and cargo around the capital region, as well as law-enforcement vehicles. Basically, the IG found that the agencies were not keeping track of how many miles the cars were driven. “This occurred because fleet managers experienced staffing shortages and staff turnover, and they were unaware of or lacked the authority to enforce the requirements to conduct annual reviews and maintain daily mileage logs,” the IG reported.

The overseers offered rationalizations for the problem that sounded like variations on the “dog ate my homework” excuse masquerading as a reason:

– The Navy fleet managers did not perform annual mileage reviews for a variety of reasons, including staffing shortages, staff turnover, and unawareness of the requirement.

– The fleet manager did not conduct the annual reviews of vehicles required by DoD and Navy regulations because he was unaware of the requirement.

– The Ft. Belvoir fleet manager did not conduct the annual reviews of vehicles required by the DoD regulation because, as he stated, he was unaware of the requirement.

– The fleet manager did not conduct the annual reviews of vehicles required by the DoD regulation because, as he stated, he was unaware of the requirement.

These officials didn’t keep track of their leased cars’ mileage because they were unaware of the requirement to do so. If that’s the standard – that government money can be wasted simply because there isn’t awareness of an explicit rule barring that particularly kind of waste — then the Pentagon has problems way more serious than sequestration.

For those of us who spend money leasing cars – and who want to get the most out of them without paying extra for violating mileage caps – these particular 2011 rentals stand out:

– A 2008 Ford F-150 pickup truck, leased for $2,448 annually, was driven only 712 miles.

– A 2002 Ford F-550 Super Duty pickup truck, leased for $3,876 annually, was driven only 243 miles.

– A 2009 Dodge Caravan was leased for $2,616 annually and was driven only 713 miles.

–  A 1997 Chevrolet Astro van was driven only 123 miles.

– A 2003 Chevrolet 3500 truck was driven only 554 miles.

– A 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, leased for $3,756 annually…was driven only 875 miles.

– A 2010 Chevrolet CG3300 passenger van, leased for $3,168 annually, was driven only 583 miles.

– A 2007 Chevrolet Uplander was leased for $2,616 annually and was driven only 659 miles.

– A 2007 Ford F-750, leased for $4,620 annually, was driven only 37 miles.

Sure, some of the vehicles are old. Cars can last a long time when you hardly ever drive them.

11 comments
ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

The big money would be in stopping the F-35, the fighter the Pentagobn doesn't want but Congress insists on including an extra million dollar engine and all this for a plane that doesn't perform to the specifications in the contract.  If they were buying something for THEIR home and it didn't perform as expected, they would tell the vendor to keep it and not pay for it.  Why are we paying any bills for this plane that runs over $100 million EACH (actually I think it is over $200 million but I don't have the number).  How much would the missle cost that would bring this plane down cost?  .

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

The IG report is important and it is waste and it does need to be addressed, but look: we're talking 1.2 million in savings compared to a half TRILLION dollar budget cut (well, fine, $54 billion per year).  I'm sure you can find another hundred stories where you're saving a million here or a million there, but even if you find another hundred stories, you still don't get to more than 2% of that cut covered.  There are big ticket items that need to be cut - planes that are half-billion dollars overbudget and other programs that are obscenely priced.  You have a cold war troop deployment schema that alone costs a quarter of a billion dollars to maintain - shrinking that could do incredible wonders to improving the budget situation.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Those annual lease costs look like bargains.  Would they be higher with fewer vehicles?  Probably.  

PoppaCharlie
PoppaCharlie

Hmmm.  Before the proponents of contracting things out got hold of the vehicular transportation thing, the norm was GSA vehicles or the Transportation Motor Pool.  Assets were managed rather efficiently (contrary to the assertions of outsourcing proponents), although some who had an inflated opinion of their organizational worth were often miffed because there was sometimes a wait.

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

Talk to them tepub congressional personal, in states the same in the legislature, for they's lobby the not representatives of the people as the now corporation are people to make sure them bottom lines get a piece of the pie, the treasury!!

codermyers
codermyers

Obviously this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasteful defense spending.  No-one wants to drive a pickup truck around Washington DC - just get rid of them.

MaxWright1
MaxWright1

Again you publish articles about minor issues regarding pentagon spending while ignoring the gross financial abuses taking place at Obama's explicit direction. I want to see an article in Time about the cost of Michelle Obama's excessive personal assistants. Or Obama's personal trainer, or the trainwreck that is Obamacare.  Or the money wasted on aid to Egypt and other countries full of anti-american fantatics. Or money wasted on stupid government projects, like the infamous shrip on a treadmill.  There are plenty of better examples of government waste than this. Stop trying to make the military look bad and do some real reporting.

gysgt213
gysgt213

"They may not know how many miles a tank tread should last, or how many miles per gallon an F-16 gets."

None is the amount of  times anyone in this country has ever asked about any of these things, to include rental cars.  There is much more serious waste out there that Times should put a reporter on, but no we instead turn a serious matter into a joke.


swagger
swagger

@MaxWright1 oh, you mean like all those other non scandals the right wing extremists are obsessed with?  like the gripes about obama's  excessive vacations which are absolutely false and when bush was on vacation 32% of the time he was inn office?

you know a large majority of americans want to reduce the size and spending on defense for costly high tech toys and all the waste, fraud and abuse from defense contractors, their lobbyists and paid for politicians don't you?

ummm1
ummm1

@MaxWright1 - Annual Defense spending is exponentially higher than whitehouse budgets and foreign aid. Not sure exactly what you count as a "stupid government project" but if you actually take a look at the government's annual spending you would notice that Defense, Social Security, and Medicare form the overwhelming majority. 

So is it really that surprising that more attention might be paid to problems with the spending in those areas rather than whatever you want to complain about?