White House:

Staff Use of Helicopters

NSIAD-95-144: Published: Jul 14, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 1995.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO reviewed White House staff use of military helicopters, focusing on: (1) the frequency of helicopter flights by White House staff from January 21, 1993, to May 24, 1994; and (2) whether applicable White House procedures were followed in requesting and approving the May 24, 1994 flight.

GAO found that: (1) as previously disclosed by the White House, staff members flew 14 times without accompanying the President, Vice President, the First Lady, or Heads of State; (2) following performance of several tests to independently verify the completeness and accuracy of the records of the Marine Corps' HMX-1 squadron, no additional White House staff flights were identified and there was a high degree of conformance between the automated database maintained by the Navy and Marine Corps, used to track and manage all naval aircraft, and the manual records maintained at HMX-1; (3) prior to May 31, 1994, all HMX-1 helicopter travel by White House staff required the approval of officials of the White House Military Office; (4) there were no written procedures detailing how staff flights are requested or the criteria used to approve flights; (5) based on information provided, the infrequency of helicopter use by White House staff made written policies and procedures unnecessary, and each request had to be reviewed on an individual basis; (6) the former Deputy Director of the White House Military Office stated that he approved the use of an HMX-1 helicopter for the May 24, 1994, trip and for the majority of the other 13 trips previously disclosed; (7) according to the former Deputy Director of the White House Military Office, the request for helicopter service was made orally well in advance of the May 24 trip, approval was given orally, and most requests and their approvals were oral; and (8) as of May 31, 1994, the approval authority for staff use of military aircraft was raised to the White House Chief of Staff or the Deputy Chief of Staff, and requests involving the Chief of Staff must be approved by the White House Counsel or Deputy White House Counsel.

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