Twelve days featuring world class meals and luxury hotels down'unda in Sydney's famed harbor, then off to Sweden and the beauties of Scandinavia, followed by the tulip-lined highways of the Netherlands, then a few days in Scotland, and finally, bringing the seventeen day extravaganza to an end, a stay at a luxury London hotel around the corner from Buckingham Palace.
Is this the vacation of your dreams? No, just a few weeks of work for a group of taxpayer-funded bureaucrats employed to travel the world and study, among other things such as foreign highways, billboards.
An ABC News investigative team broke the story this morning that the U.S. government spends millions every year to send a twelve member team of federal and state highway officials on lavish research trips around the world in order to produce a 76-page report on outdoor advertising policy few ever read. The initiative is known as the International Scan Program:
The program has been going on for years and the latest report describes the practice as "a large savings of research dollars and time."
At a time when tax rates and gas prices are as high as they have ever been, government officials are already scrambling to point blame and disaffiliate with the program. Just a few hours after ABC News began to contact government officials questioning the program, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood ordered the program suspended saying the President has been clear we need to get rid of stupid spending and pointless waste.
LaHood said that while the program is suspended he will personally review the way taxpayer dollars have been spent.
"Each taxpayer dollar is precious, and there is no excuse for wasting a single one," he told ABC.
The Secretary said this all the while another group of transportation officials were already abroad. ABC News discovered that the group plans to continue their itinerary -- studying pavement -- while LaHood studies the value of the program. The group will return June 26, as scheduled, completing one of many trips that have cost taxpayers nearly $12 million over the last ten years.
ABC News first contacted the Federal Highway Administration on Monday evening after obtaining a copy of a letter that House Republicans sent to the department late last week. The letter was sent shortly after Representatives learned of the seventeen day world tour. The letter is signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Steve Southerland (R-Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.).
The question then, is, what can Americans do to provide oversight to government waste like this?