09.26.2012 0

Military’s new mission—bailing out GM (again)

GovroletBy Mark Wohlschlegel — The Department of Defense has a new mission — to purchase and integrate 1,500 new Chevy Volts into its fleet.  Who gave this order to begin “Operation Inefficient”?   That’s what ALG would like to find out.

Why exactly?  The military line is that this past summer, the Department of Defense’s began purchasing Chevy Volts and other electric cars as part of an initiative to “green up” the military.  And the prettier version — they are just doing their part to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.  I’m not buying it!  Again I ask, why?!   Why, when our defense budget is in the targets of a fiscally irresponsible, do-nothing-Congress, are we wasting money on the most unimpressive inefficient vehicle on the market?!  Do you really think the military is taking its own initiative to spend money on the most unintimidating vehicle on the market?  Somewhere up the line an order was given.

According to Air Force spokeswoman Tonya Racasner, over the next few years it will add 1,500 “non-tactical” (thank goodness!) road-capable, plug-in electric vehicles.  To date, the military has purchased 168.

As the leading branch in overseeing this initiative, the Air Force is preparing for the arrival 41 new electric vehicles reporting to Los Angeles Air Force Base.  In addition, the Army alone plans to place green-cars at more than 40 of its installations.  The other military branches are also following suit, with purchases and adding more charging stations on and off military bases.

This Administration has championed the Chevy Volt as a symbol of the government bailout of General Motors.  It couldn’t have picked a better candidate to represent itself!  The Chevy Volt has been a series of problems.

  • It has a battery problem that has led spontaneous fires, something the Department of Defense itself has been involved in helping solve.
  • It could electrocute first responders to an accident, causing the Department of Energy to spend $4.4 million on a program to teach firefighters how to protect themselves when responding to a Volt accident.
  • GM has already had to suspend production twice this year alone (so far…).

Despite having spent over $1.2 billion on developing this car, GM still hasn’t got it right — and is reportedly losing $50,000 per vehicle.  And all that with the government’s help!   The Obama Administration has made this company and the Chevy Volt its poster child of the big government auto bailout.  It has hailing the Volt as the “car of the future”.  It has tried to create incentive with green-pushing tax-breaks.  President Obama has even given a personal pledge to drive one himself after a second term.   Despite all this “help”, GM is finding little consumer demand for the Volt.  While Chevy may boast record high sales for August 2012, moving 2,500 cars, the experts attribute some of this to “the best incentives it’s ever had on the model to move cars” — a $169 monthly lease, down from $269 a month.   And they’re surprised GM didn’t sell more.

So this begs the question, why is the Defense Department, whose budget always seems to be in Congress’ sights, spending valuable taxpayers’ money on this poorly built machine?  Is this Administration orchestrating another pseudo bailout for GM.  Or is this Administration simply trying to protect itself and its bad investment — a self-bailout?

Americans for Limited Government has filed a FOIA with the Secretary of Defense’s office to see who has authorized these purchases and any government discussions behind them, including communications with the White House.

After the Chevy Volt has posted a very poor track record, why is the federal government continuing to spend money on a project going up in smoke?

Mark Wohlschlegel is a Staff Attorney for Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

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