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Pentagon spends on chauffeur uniforms; VA can't explain where rent profits go

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Photo - Photo: Chauffeurs in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo by flickr user violarenate, used under a Creative Commons license.
Photo: Chauffeurs in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo by flickr user violarenate, used under a Creative Commons license.
News,Jennifer Peebles,Watchdog Blog

Pentagon executives' chauffeurs are in line to get new outfits at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile, a member of Congress says he can't get answers about how the VA spends millions of dollars it makes from renting out property it owns.

The military is taking bids on buying new gray uniforms for the Pentagon brass' chauffeurs -- 203 coats, 340 pairs of trousers and 408 shirts for male chauffeurs and 16 coats, 16 pairs of trousers and 24 shirts for female chauffeurs, reports Mark Thompson on Time magazine's Battleland blog:

Despite the fact, as the U.S. military never tires of telling us, that it has been cut to the bone, certain budget items are apparently sacrosanct. There is, after all, still a requirement to chauffeur the Pentagon brass, both military and civilian, hither and yon around the capital in Humvee-sized SUVs (the $15 billion you spent on the Washington Metro system - no way. Taxicabs? Puh-leez.)

The particulars, which Thompson quoted:

Grey chauffeur uniforms shall be made of 55% polyester, 45% wool material. Men, blouse coat, grey, shall be made with a black rayon liner and two inside breast pocket, two outside flap pockets. Men, Trouser, grey, two back pockets, two front pocket with front zipper with clasp, front pleats and cuffs hem. Women, blouse coat, grey shall be made with a black rayon liner and two inside breast pocket, two outside flap pockets. Women, trouser, grey two back pockets, front zipper with clasp, two front pocket with front pleats and cuffs hem. Shirts, Elbeco Corporate Apparel, white and light blue, long and short sleeves shall be made of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. Sweater, black V-Neck, poly wool blend. Neckties, cotton, burgundy.

Writes Aaron Mehta of the Center for Public Integrity: "The bid makes clear that even though the Pentagon has plenty to worry about these days -- the threat of war with Iran, the chaos in Syria, and the continued conflict in Afghanistan, to name a few -- someone there still has time to worry about the fine details of how the drivers of top generals and assistant secdefs are to be dressed."

Meanwhile, the Veterans Affairs Administration has been making serious money renting out property it owns in Los Angeles to private entities, even though the land was donated to provide badly needed housing for homeless vets.

Instead, the land is being rented out, NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, for use as a baseball stadium for UCLA, to 20th Century Fox for film set storage, and "the laundry facility for Marriott Hotels." U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, the Democrat whose district includes the VA facility, told Jaffe he can't get answers to how much money the VA has made off dozens of real estate deals.

Jaffe writes:

Where the money went may be a mystery, but NPR has been able to estimate how much money the West L.A. VA has taken in. Through the Freedom of Information Act, NPR obtained the major long-term rental agreements as well as related correspondence between the VA and members of Congress.

Some data are missing and some of the documents conflict, but it appears that over the past dozen years, the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center has taken in at least $28 million and possibly more than $40 million.

Somewhere between $28 million and $40 million. That range bears a slight resemblance to the estimates of how much the VA has spent on conferences -- somewhere between $20 million and $100 million, as my colleague Mark Flatten recently reported.

Jennifer Peebles is the Washington Examiner's data editor. Contact her at jpeebles@washingtonexaminer.com and follow her on Twitter at @DCPeebles.

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Jennifer Peebles is the Washington Examiner's data editor. Contact her at jpeebles@washingtonexaminer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DCPeebles.

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Jennifer Peebles

Digital Editor
The Washington Examiner