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Internal Transportation Watchdog Will Audit Use of Private Government Jets

Internal Transportation Watchdog Will Audit Use of Private Government Jets

An internal Department of Transportation (DOT) watchdog said on Monday that it would conduct an audit of Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) taxpayer-funded jets for official trips, in addition to his predecessor’s travel, Elaine Chao.

The department’s inspector general announced it would conduct an audit to determine “whether the Office of the Secretary complied with Federal regulations, policies, and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft.” This comes after Buttigieg reportedly used taxpayer-funded aircraft for at least 18 trips across the United States and internationally.

The inspector general noted that the audit comes after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter on December 16, 2022, to the inspector general, requesting a review to determine if “Buttigieg’s travels were in compliance with all applicable regulations, policies, and procedures.” The letter from Rubio cited a Fox News report — which used flight records, the secretary’s schedule, and additional information obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT) — that stated Buttigieg took at least 18 trips on taxpayer-funded private jets to travel across the United States and internationally. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on behalf of his wife Elaine Chao (C) during her confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of transportation as her father Dr. James Chao (L) looks on in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 11, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Rudio noted, at the time, that the total cost of Buttigieg’s globetrotting was unknown but that the FAA typically charges “federal agencies approximately $5,000 per hour to use aircraft in its fleet.” Rubio added, “If these reports are confirmed, it would represent yet another troubling example of this administration’s continued willingness to skirt basic ethics rules.” At the time, a transportation department spokesperson told Fox News: Secretary Buttigieg mostly travels by commercial airline, and has directed that travel and logistical decisions be grounded in efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars. ... Given that commercial air travel is usually the cheapest way for the Secretary and his staff to travel, 108 of the 126 flights for DOT trips he has taken have been on commercial airlines. However, there are some cases where it is more efficient and/or less expensive for the Secretary and accompanying personnel to fly on a 9-seater FAA plane rather than commercial flights. ... Use of the FAA plane in limited, specific cases has helped to maximize efficiency and save thousands of taxpayer dollars. It was later reported that Buttigieg made 18 flights on FAA planes over seven trips.

The Washington Post reported that Buttigieg’s office said, “In all but one trip, it was less expensive to use FAA aircraft than to fly commercially” and that the “cost of the flights for Buttigieg and [the] accompanying staff was $41,905.20.” President Joe Biden looks on as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg delivers remarks at a Trucking Action Plan event Monday, April 4, 2022, on the South Grounds of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott) The inspector general noted that there is “guidance” in using the fleet of taxpayer-funded aircraft operated and maintained by FAA personnel.

The “guidance” states that in order to minimize the cost in addition to wear and tear, the aircraft should be used “only for official travel or on a space available basis, subject to certain policies and authorizations.” “We will conduct an audit to determine whether the Office of the Secretary complied with Federal regulations, policies, and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft,” the inspector general said in the notice to Assistant Secretary for Administration.

The audit will focus on the official trips taken since January 31, 2017 — near the start of the Trump administration. Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of APT, which obtained the information Fox News used for the initial report, said, “After Americans for Public Trust helped determine Secretary Buttigieg’s excessive use of taxpayer-funded government jets, we are pleased to see that his air travel is now under investigation.” “Everyday Americans have faced unprecedented flight cancellations and disruptions, but Buttigieg has continued to fly private, even on a Coast Guard plane and even when commercial options were readily available,” Sutherland added. Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at or follow him on Twitter @JacobMBliss.

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