Did GM Get Sweetheart Deal on Homeland Security Vehicles?

A report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security has found that the Department’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) division wasted about $2.5 million of taxpayer money in 2014 on an extravagant fleet vehicle program. It is not surprising that images show that the vehicles in question appear to be manufactured by crony company, General Motors.

A House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, headed by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), requested the audit on the FPS’ fleet operation. The report unveils a fleet of 1,169 vehicles which were leased at an operating cost of $10.7 million. That’s over $9,000 a year per vehicle or over $750 a month. Would any taxpaying individual agree to a personal lease deal for that amount? Probably not, but the Obama Administration has no problem spending the taxpayers’ money to lease vehicles which apparently come primarily from GM.

If there was any question as to the lack of efficiency in running the fleet, an even more egregious abuse surfaced with the discovery that the department leased 101 more vehicles than it has officers! The report also questioned the need for costly, high-end SUVs for officers. Coincidentally, those vehicles carry the highest profit margins for auto manufacturers.

Many have criticized the crony relationship between the Obama Administration and GM since the 2009 taxpayer-funded bailout of the company. The process saw claims of politically-favored groups like the UAW given priority over those of less politically-popular groups like GM bondholders. The president later went on to campaign upon the “success” of the bailout with the UAW coming out in force to help with the reelection bid.

Internet stories previously surfaced questioning the need for so many government Border Patrol vehicles seen sitting unused in areas ranging from Rochester, NY to El Paso, TX to Naco, AZ. Every image I see of the vehicles reveals GM badging. The $2.5 million in waste for the FPS program is a drop in the bucket, but is likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of taxpayer money being wasted to help support the president’s favorite auto company.

The OIG report on the FPS waste does not go far enough. The question should be asked, why is a government agency leasing vehicles it doesn’t need and who is benefitting? The investigation should be expanded to include other agencies that are doing business with GM. Just how much taxpayer money is going to GM (or to any other crony company for that matter) unnecessarily?

The crony relationship between the Obama Administration goes beyond the monetary realm. The recent slap on the wrist for GM from the Justice Department proves that. GM covered up an ignition switch defect that directly led to the deaths of at least 124 people. No one has been charged and the measly fine of $900 million levied by the Justice Department is an insult to the families that lost loved ones. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is demonized for fudging emissions reporting and may face fines expected to be in the billions of dollars.

Only a politicized regulatory bureaucracy would place the value of emissions testing integrity above human lives. That is the case when a company being charged with emissions abuse has failed to vote in the UAW during efforts to unionize VW plants while GM, which helped the president get reelected, gets off easy for causing the deaths of 124 people.

It is important to discover if the roots of the FPS waste also extend to crony company, GM. House oversight committees should widen their investigations to discover just who is getting the taxpayer money that is unnecessarily going to cronies. I have contacted Rep. Perry's office (contact at 202-225-5836) requesting that his group do so. 

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.