In fiscal year 2014, federal agencies paid over $1 billion to lease over 186,000 vehicles from the General Services Administration (GSA) to carry out agencies’ missions. Ranging from busses to compact sedans, these vehicles transport personnel, haul equipment, and ferry clients to agency-provided service locations, among other activities. In recent years, Members of Congress and the President have raised questions about the size and cost of the federal fleet, and legislative proposals have been aimed at reducing its size and cost.
Each federal agency is responsible for managing its own vehicle fleet. At agency request, GSA leases vehicles to each agency. GSA also provides guidance and advice to agencies on the management of their federal fleet. Additionally, the Federal Property Management Regulations (FPMR) require agencies to ensure that each vehicle within their fleets either meets an agency-wide utilization standard or is individually justified. The FPMR recommend—but do not require—that the annual mileage minimum be 12,000 miles for passenger vehicles and 10,000 miles for light trucks. For both utilization metrics and justification, agencies are allowed to define their own criteria for their vehicle fleets. For its January 2016 report, GAO reviewed the leased vehicle fleets at five agencies: the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Air Force (Air Force), and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). BIA and NPS are within the Department of the Interior, and VHA is within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While agencies are allowed to determine their criteria for keeping vehicles in their fleet, GAO found that some federal agencies kept vehicles that did not meet the agency’s utilization criteria and for which the agency could not readily provide a justification, including the following examples.
Agencies are allowed to individually justify vehicles that do not meet the agency’s utilization criteria, but the regulations do not specify how agencies should conduct this justification process or how the justifications should be documented. While the FPMR state that agencies may be required to provide written justification, the regulations do not require agencies to clearly document the justifications before a request to provide such documentation is made. Federal internal control standards state that all transactions and significant events need to be clearly documented and that the documentation should be readily available for examination.Without readily available documentation, the agencies could not determine whether any of these vehicles should be eliminated from agency fleets.
In addition to the vehicles for which agencies could not locate justifications in a timely manner, three agencies kept vehicles that did not pass their justification process. While regulations do not require agencies to take any action for unjustified vehicles, federal internal control standards call for agencies to be accountable for stewardship of government resources. All five selected agencies in GAO’s review have established approaches to address unjustified vehicles, which can include placing them in a shared pool, transferring them to a new mission, rotating them with higher-mileage vehicles, or eliminating them from their fleet. All five agencies took actions to reduce vehicles that did not meet utilization criteria or pass the justification process, but two agencies still cumulatively retained over 500 unjustified vehicles.
By not taking corrective action to eliminate or reassign vehicles that did not meet utilization criteria or pass a justification review, agencies could be spending federal tax dollars on vehicles that may not be needed.
In its January 2016 report, GAO recommended the following actions:
GAO was not able to quantify the financial benefits of these actions because potential savings would depend on how many vehicles were eliminated from the federal fleet as a result. In fiscal year 2014, selected agencies paid about $8.7 million for leased vehicles that did not meet agency-set utilization criteria and did not have readily available individual justifications. Costs paid may not equal cost savings from eliminating vehicles because agencies may need to spend resources on other means to accomplish the work performed by these vehicles. However, without justifications and corrective actions, agencies could be spending taxpayer dollars on vehicles that may not be needed.
The information contained in this analysis is based on findings from the product in the related GAO product section. GAO reviewed the leased vehicle fleets at five agencies: Air Force, BIA, NASA, NPS, and VHA. GAO selected these five agencies to include a mix of (1) fleet sizes, but none smaller than 1,000 vehicles; (2) military and civilian fleets; (3) fleets with varying annual mileage compared to federal miles-traveled guidelines; and (4) agencies’ use of telematics, among other considerations. Telematics is a technology that sends, receives, and stores information related to remote objects, such as vehicles. Agencies that use telematics may have more opportunities to measure utilization than agencies that do not use such technology.
For each agency, GAO analyzed the agencies’ policies and other relevant documentation on their utilization review processes. GAO compared agency processes to standards for internal control in the federal government. GAO also obtained fiscal year 2014 data from GSA for each agency’s leased passenger vehicles and light trucks. GAO excluded certain vehicles, such as those that were leased by more than one agency during fiscal year 2014, emergency responder and law enforcement vehicles, and vehicles outside the continental United States. GAO determined which vehicles did not meet the miles-traveled guidelines in the FPMR and sent a list of these vehicles to each agency. GAO asked each agency to identify if the vehicles had justification documentation or had passed a justification review. GAO then analyzed the costs paid to GSA for any unjustified vehicles.
GAO provided a draft of its January 2016 report to GSA; the Departments of Defense, Interior and Veterans Affairs; and NASA. GSA and the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Veterans Affairs provided written comments in which they concurred with GAO’s recommendations. These agencies also provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. NASA provided no comments. GSA stated that it was developing a comprehensive plan to address the recommendations. Interior stated that NPS and BIA both plan to develop processes to ensure that vehicle justifications are readily available. The Department of Veterans Affairs set a target date of January 2017 to implement both of GAO’s recommendations.
GAO provided a draft of this report section to GSA, the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Veterans Affairs, and to NASA for review and comment. The agencies did not provide comments on this report section.
For additional information about this area, contact Lori Rectanus at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.
The General Services Administration (GSA) provides guidance to agencies to assist them in reducing underutilized leased vehicles. This guidance can be written (such as bulletins) or advice from GSA's fleet service representatives (FSR) to agency fleet managers. FSRs assist agencies with leasing issues, and GSA expects its FSRs to communicate with fleet managers about vehicle utilization at least a...