Senators propose shrinking federal vehicle fleet

The sums the government spends buying and leasing "nonessential" motor vehicles would shrink by 20 percent under a bill introduced on Wednesday by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The proposal, originally offered by the fiscal commission appointed by President Obama, could save $500 million if enacted by 2012, the lawmakers said.

"This is a common-sense place for us to cut wasteful spending," Shaheen said. "The government's vehicle budget has grown considerably over the last several years, and it just doesn't make sense. There's no reason for some of these agencies to own fleets of SUVs, which are expensive to own and to operate."

A spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which tracks the fleet and publishes the "Guide to Federal Fleet Management," said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.

Citing numbers from GSA's "Federal Fleet Report" and a Government Accountability Office report, the senators pointed to 662,000 nonmilitary cars, vans, sport utility vehicles, trucks, buses and ambulances owned or leased by federal agencies. Cumulatively, they consume a million gallons of fuel daily. The lawmakers said the fleet has grown by 32,000 vehicles since 2006 at a cost of a $1 billion, and that some 63,794 vehicles were purchased in fiscal 2010 alone.

The senators acknowledged the importance of mission-critical and national security-related vehicles, but they asked why SUVs are needed by the National Science Foundation, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Small Business Administration.

The bill would exempt the U.S. Postal Service from the cuts, and it would task agency inspectors general with monitoring nonofficial vehicle use and reporting results to Congress, while also finding ways to reduce the fleet further.

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