Another of the government's VIP flying services is taking flak.
The Coast Guard commandant's two Gulfstream jets, which cost $2.6 million a year to operate, should be sold because they are "totally unjustified and an invitation to 'joy ride,' " says Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Government Operations Committee.
Brooks released a GAO report Tuesday that said 28 Coast Guard personnel are assigned full time to maintain the planes, which are stationed at Washington National Airport.
The GAO recounted how the planes were used for routine flights that could have been made much more cheaply by commercial airliner. A year ago, for example, Adm. John B. Hayes, then the Coast Guard commandant, his wife and four other passengers flew to New Orleans to visit local Coast Guard units and the Mardi Gras, the report said.
The weekend trip on the 15-passenger Gulfstream I turbojet cost $13,000. Commercial flights would have cost the party almost $10,000 less.
The audit found that Deputy Transportation Secretary Darrell M. Trent and six others used the 12-passenger Gulfstream II jet to go to the 1981 Paris Air Show at a cost of $61,000. That plane costs $3,263 an hour to operate. Commercial transportation was available for a fraction of the cost, the report said.
A Coast Guard spokesman said the agency would have no comment until its parent Department of Transportation sends a report on its aircraft to Congress April 1. Last fall the GAO criticized the use of executive jets by Federal Aviation Administrator J. Lynn Helms and Congress restricted his use of the planes.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole about the Coast Guard jets, Brooks said, "This is an unconscionable waste of badly needed funds in a time of high federal deficits. I urge you to take action now to dispose of these . . .aircraft."
The Air Force runs a $35-million-a-year VIP flying service out of Andrews Air Force Base for the president, Cabinet officials and members of Congress. The GAO has found that several executive branch agencies have their own air fleets as well. The GAO report recommended that Coast Guard and DOT brass use commercial flights or the Air Force service.