During the recession, one of the most trying economic periods in the nation's history, the U.S. government was purchasing a fleet of new limousines -- or so suggests a new report from iWatch News, part of The Center for Public Integrity. According to the study, the number of limousines owned by the federal government increased 73 percent during the first two years of President Barack Obama's presidency.
According to FOX News:
Some of the details are a bit hazy. Most of the new limos were obtained in fiscal 2009, which covered the very end of George W. Bush's term and the first eight months of Obama's -- so the Bush administration could have initiated some of the purchases.
The General Services Administration, which keeps the data, also told iWatch News that its "limousine" category refers to a range of vehicles, including sedans.
But that doesn't mean the government is buying jalopies. The State Department said its vehicle of choice was the Cadillac DTS. The department told iWatch News the vehicles are mainly used by diplomats overseas and "distinguished foreign visitors" in the United States.
The report explains that the number of vehicles increased from 238 in fiscal year 2008 to 412 in 2010. But, when asked for a definitive number, the GSA said that it didn't really have one. Sara Merriam, a government spokesperson, explained that the term "limousine" has a very loose definition:
“The categories in the Fleet Report are overly broad, and the term 'limousine' is not defined...vehicles represented as limousines can range from protective duty vehicles to sedans.” Asked whether the GSA actually knows how many limos it has in its fleet, Merriam responded that GSA “cannot say that its report accurately reflects the number of limousines.”
Rather than basing its definition of limo on the type of car purchased, the government considers a limousine any vehicle that carries "a VIP or 'other protectee.'" But, the report makes the following determination clear:
...most of its limos are Cadillac DTSs, which cost the taxpayer more than $60,000 for a 2011 base model and support the additional weight of armoring.
There are clearly two sides to the story here. The government needs safe, protective vehicles. That said, these vehicles should be cost-effective (and, based on the proclamations the administration has made, every vehicle purchased should be fuel-efficient). It appears, based on a recent presidential memorandum, that the administration has taken steps toward this latter goal.
You can read the report for yourself.