Sessions Asks Agencies To Provide Data On Costly Alternative Fuel Vehicle Acquisitions

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, released a letter today sent to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell regarding her agency’s procurement of alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) in an effort to meet legal mandates and presidential directives. Identical copies of the letter were sent to agency heads at the Departments of the Air Force, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The full text of Sessions’ letter is below, and a PDF version may be found here:

“Dear Secretary Jewell:

A recent GAO report highlights the fact that a number of agencies are not properly managing their federal fleets. This mismanagement is one reason GAO lacks accurate data to determine how much cost savings are available in a $3 billion fleet system, with approximately 450,000 civilian and non-tactical military vehicles. Assuming GAO is correct, and agencies are not using leading practices to manage the size and cost of fleets, it would appear to be difficult for agencies to meet pending alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) requirements.

The Energy Independence and Security Act requires the acquisition of only low greenhouse emitting vehicles and the Energy Policy Act requires that 75 percent of light duty vehicles qualify as AFV. In addition, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that all light duty vehicle purchases or leases qualify as AFV. Other executive orders require an increase in alternative fuel consumption, 10 percent annually, and a 30 percent reduction in petroleum consumption. Given GAO’s conclusion that accurate cost data is unavailable, which prohibits informed investment decisions, agencies must work to eliminate these problems or inform the Congress that achieving these goals are impractical or not cost effective.

The goals might be impractical. As GAO states in its report, the Department of Homeland Security believes that developing AFV fuel infrastructure is too costly. Indeed, the Veterans Administration has already spent $17 million building fueling stations at medical facilities. The goals might also be too costly. For instance, the Chevy Volt, which qualifies as a low greenhouse gas emitting vehicle, has a selling price of just over $37,000. A comparable low-price gas vehicle is just over $15,000, so the taxpayers would see an increase of over $20,000 in this example.

In our current fiscal environment, we might need to re-evaluate our fleet program and the purchases required to maintain an effective and efficient fleet. To that end, please address the following in regards to how you plan to properly manage reaching AFV goals. If you believe some standards should be eliminated, please explain your reasons behind elimination, as well. In doing so, please do not attach the Vehicle Allocation Methodology Report as a substantive response.

1. Please identify the total number vehicles in your fleet. Please itemize the vehicle classification (e.g., sedan, light duty, sport utility, etc.).

2. Please identify the total number of AFV in your fleet. Please itemize the vehicle classification (e.g., sedan, light duty, sport utility, etc.).

3. Please identify the most expensive and least expensive make and model in your fleet, and include the prices, in your response.

4. Please identify all optional features added to each vehicle in your fleets and the number of vehicles that are standard.

5. Please provide a detailed outline of your plans to meet AFV requirements and the estimated cost associated with these plans. Please itemize planned purchases.

6. Please provide any cost saving analysis you have conducted related to comparable low price gas vehicles and AFVs.

7. Please provide expected fuel related costs to meet all legal and executive requirements and explain, through numerical information, whether meeting AFV requirements with increase or decrease costs.

8. According to the Department of Energy, most of the AFVs historically acquired by federal agencies can be run on E-85, an ethanol blend. These vehicles are sometimes called “flex fuel” vehicles because they can operate on a flexible fuel ratio ranging from 100 percent gasoline to a maximum of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This flexibility might be useful, where alternative fuel is not readily available.

a. How often do drivers fill flex fuel vehicles with traditional fuel instead of alternative fuel?

b. If alternative fuel like E85 is not available, what types of vehicles are agencies acquiring, and how do the costs of these vehicles compare to the costs of traditionally fueled vehicles?

9. Please describe the impact of all AFV directives as they relate to the availability of an alternative fuel source, including any plans to build source locations?

It may be necessary for Congress and the Executive Branch to reassess the move toward AFV. This information is critical for us to make that determination and should help agencies better manage their fleets, something GAO has already identified as problematic.

Please have your staff provide this information both in hard copy and in an electronic, searchable format no later than December 20, 2013.

Very truly yours,

Jeff Sessions

Ranking Member”


Ranking Member Sessions had previously requested that GAO study how to reduce the size of federal fleets. GAO found in that study, cited in the new letters, that agencies were essentially incapable of controlling the costs of federal fleets, because many were not collecting adequate data.