By Mark Thompson
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.