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Department Of Justice: Executives' Use of Aircraft for Nonmission Purposes

GAO-13-235 Published: Feb 26, 2013. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2013.
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What GAO Found

From fiscal years 2007 through 2011, three individuals who served as Attorney General (AG) and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) accounted for 95 percent (659 out of 697 flights) of all Department of Justice (DOJ) executive nonmission flights using DOJ aircraft at a total cost of $11.4 million. Specifically, the AG and FBI Director collectively took 74 percent (490 out of 659) of all of their flights for business purposes, such as conferences, meetings, and field office visits; 24 percent (158 out of 659) for personal reasons; and 2 percent (11 out of 659) for a combination of business and personal reasons. All AGs and FBI Directors are "required use" travelers who are required by executive branch policy to use government aircraft for all their travel, including travel for personal reasons, because of security and communications needs. However, according to DOJ officials, while the AG has historically been required to use government aircraft for all types of travel, including personal travel, the FBI Director had, until 2011, the discretion to use commercial air service for his personal travel. DOJ officials told us this explains the AG's greater use of DOJ aircraft for personal reasons than the FBI Director. According to DOJ and FBI flight data we reviewed, all AGs and the FBI Director provided reimbursements for their personal travel in accordance with federal requirements. The FBI also conducts flights from a covert facility to Ronald Reagan National Airport to position aircraft to transport the AG and the FBI Director. Specifically, $1.5 million of the $11.4 million for 659 AG and FBI Director flights from fiscal years 2007 through 2011 was used to fly aircraft from this facility to Ronald Reagan National Airport prior to transporting these officials to their destinations. According to the FBI, these positioning flights are necessary because, among other things, the location where the FBI maintains the aircraft is an unmarked covert facility, and at times, the FBI initiates sensitive flight operations from this site.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOJ components including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and United States Marshals Service (USMS) own, lease, and operate a fleet of aircraft primarily to conduct DOJ mission flights, including counterterrorism and criminal surveillance and prevention of illicit drug trafficking into and within the United States. DOJ components also use these aircraft to transport DOJ executives, such as the Attorney General and the FBI Director, for official but nonmission purposes, and conduct flights to position aircraft for security reasons to transport these executives from Washington, D.C. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) have established requirements for federal agencies regarding the use of government aircraft, including executive travel.

GAO was asked to review nonmissionrelated travel by DOJ executives. GAO determined, for fiscal years 2007 through 2011, which DOJ executives used DOJ aircraft for nonmission travel and the frequency, purposes, and costs of such travel. GAO analyzed executive flight data from each DOJ component for fiscal years 2007 through 2011, and interviewed officials to identify the reasons that DOJ aircraft were used to transport DOJ executives for nonmission purposes and the frequency and costs of such flights, including flights taken specifically to position aircraft to transport executives. For purposes of this report, and consistent with executive branch policy, GAO defines nonmission travel as any travel conducted by executives that is not directly related to mission operations.

For more information, contact, David C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or

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