• Home
  • Blog
  • News

Inspector General Launches Audit Into Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s Use of Federal Jets

The Transportation Department’s inspector general is launching an audit into Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of federal jets for official trips, as well as travel by his predecessor, Elaine Chao. The audit comes in response to a Fox News Digital Report in December which found that Buttigieg had taken at least 18 flights on the FAA jets.[0] According to the Transportation Department, the cost of these flights for Buttigieg and accompanying staff members was $41,905.20.[1]

In response to the audit, Buttigieg tweeted, “Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest. Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money.”[1] A spokesperson for the department confirmed these details to The Hill, adding that Buttigieg “flies commercially the vast majority of the time.”[2]

The exceptions to this rule have been made when the Department’s career ethics officials, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, determined that the use of a 9-seat FAA plane would be either more cost effective or should be approved for exceptional scheduling or security reasons.[3] In an interview, Buttigieg explained that he uses the plane either when they have a complicated itinerary or when “we do the math and it’s actually cheaper for the taxpayer.”[4]

Chao used the FAA’s planes for seven trips, including two international trips which cost taxpayers an estimated $93,977.[5] The FAA’s rates to use a Cessna Citation come in at almost $5,000 per hour for non-Transportation Department users, however, while for officials within the department, the rate is about $1,000 per hour.[0] This discrepancy has raised questions about the cost-effectiveness of these flights.

Buttigieg and his office are welcoming the audit to help put to rest any “false, outlandish and cynical claims about the Secretary’s mode of travel.” The inspector general’s investigation is expected to examine whether the Office of the Secretary complied with Federal regulations, policies and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft.

0. “Why Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Should Fly Private More Often – Not Less” View from the Wing, 27 Feb. 2023, https://viewfromthewing.com/why-transportation-secretary-pete-buttigieg-should-fly-private-more-often-not-less/

1. “Transportation watchdog to audit Buttigieg's use of government jets” WRBL, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.wrbl.com/hill-politics/transportation-watchdog-to-audit-buttigiegs-use-of-government-jets/

2. “Buttigieg ‘glad' for federal audit on his use of government planes” POLITICO, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/02/27/buttigieg-federal-audit-government-planes-00084594

3. “Buttigieg’s Use Of Federal Jets Under Review By Transportation Department Watchdog” Forbes, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianbushard/2023/02/27/buttigiegs-use-of-federal-jets-under-review-by-transportation-department-watchdog

4. “DOT inspector general to audit Pete Buttigieg's use of FAA planes” The Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2023/02/27/buttigieg-faa-planes-travel

5. “Buttigieg ‘glad' for federal audit on his use of government planes” msnNOW, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/buttigieg-glad-for-federal-audit-on-his-use-of-government-planes/ar-AA180Hkw