During a hearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday, Department of Energy Inspector General Greg Friedman told Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) that compared to amount of money spent by DOE contractors, the $60 million the department spends annually on travel is a “paltry sum.”
A “paltry sum”?
Think that's bad? How about this: according to Christopher Johns, director of the Energy Department's budget office, the DOE's vehicle fleet is roughly the size of its staff -- which is about 15,000 strong (not counting contractors).
Watch the "paltry sum" conversation unfold (via the Washington Free Beacon):
Here's the transcript of that conversation:
REP. JOE BARTON: My first question is: Do you know how much DOE spent on travel last year?
CHRISTOPHER JOHNS (the director of the department’s office of budget): I could do the math for you—I don’t have the number off the top of my head.
BARTON: Do the other two witnesses know that number?
FRIEDMAN: I don’t know the answer, Mr. Barton, but what’s really interesting is the amount of money spent by the federal employees is a paltry amount compared to the amount spent by the facility management contractors of their department. That’s where the big bucks obviously are.
BARTON: Do you want to put numbers on those? When you say paltry that’s a pretty general term.
FRIEDMAN: I have not looked at the number. My understanding is it’s in the $60 million range.
BARTON: $60 million for the contractors?
FRIEDMAN: No, $60 million for the feds.
BARTON: Oh, that’s paltry.
FRIEDMAN: Compared to the contractors. Let me be clear about that.
BARTON: Okay, if $60 million’s paltry, you’re saying the contractors spend several hundred million on travel?
FRIEDMAN: I don’t have that analysis. I would suspect several hundred million is an understatement.
BARTON: Can you get it?
FRIEDMAN: I cannot get it easily, no.
BARTON: Mr. Johns could get it. Will you get it and provide it to the members of the committee on both sides of the aisle?
JOHNS: Yes, sir.
Rep. Barton grilled the DOE's budget director over the size of its vehicle fleet and demanded to know its exact size. Johns responded by saying the DOE’s goal is to reduce its fleet by 35 percent -- but he refused to say exactly how big that fleet was.
“Don’t play games,” Rep. Barton said.
“Sir, I assure you I am not playing games,” Johns responded.
The Texas rep tried a few more times to get a hard number out of Johns but received the same answer each time.
“I don’t normally ask civil servants to resign but if you really don’t know a general answer to my question about the number of vehicles, and you’re the budget officer, that’s inexcusable,” a frustrated Rep. Barton said.
"I'm sorry I didn't know the number but my job is to review the overall budget request," Johns explained.
Watch the exchange between Rep. Barton and Johns (via GOP.com):
But that’s not just passenger cars, Johns explained. That figure also includes “highly technical equipment such as the trucks the department uses to transfer nuclear material,” the Medill Washington report adds.
“It’s not just a matter of everyone in DOE gets a car,” Johns said. “I can assure you I have not been given a car by the department.”
DOE officials say their goal is to cut the fleet down to 9,484 vehicles in 2013.