The GAO said that the intelligence agencies, like the CIA or FBI, are required by federal regulations to report non-mission travel to the General Services Administration. These trips are at taxpayer expense even though they are personal or not related to the agency’s mission. So for there to be any secrecy surrounding them only serves to create a distrust of the federal government.
The GAO’s investigation was spurred by a separate report I requested when the agency found that two FBI Gulfstream V jets that were justified to Congress by the FBI as critical to counterterrorism operations were mainly being used for “non-mission” or personal flights. During that initial investigation, GAO learned that the FBI had made its own determination that, as an intelligence-gathering agency, it did not have to report travel to the General Services Administration (GSA).
According to several executive branch documents, senior federal officials who travel on government aircraft for nonmission or personal purposes, except for trips that are classified, are required to report their travel to GSA. The GAO found that “GSA is not collecting all specified unclassified data as directed, and GSA has not provided a basis for deviating from executive branch requirements.”
In addition, the GAO found that the GSA fails to identify the different agencies that don’t report senior federal travel data as a result of the intelligence agency exemption. This has the potential to limit the accuracy of its Senior Federal Travel Reports. These reports give information on “the number of trips taken by senior federal officials, the costs of such trips, the number of agencies reporting, and the number and costs of trips taken by cost justification.”
The GAO identified a significant gap that needs to be addressed to ensure transparency and verify that federal agencies are following current regulations. The intelligence agencies need to be held accountable. Transparency brings accountability and may just save the taxpayers some money.