Government Waste

The Bill Is Finally in for Tom Price's Private Plane Trips

Federal officials are supposed to travel in a cost-efficient way. The former secretary of health and human services rarely did.


Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

Tom Price wasted more than $300,000 of government money traveling on chartered planes during his seventh-month tenure as secretary of health and human services, according to a report released Friday by the department's Office of Inspector General.

The report also revealed that 20 of the 21 trips Price took that the agency looked into "did not comply with Federal requirements." Those 21 trips cost the federal government nearly $1.2 million, including more than $480,000 for chartered flights and an additional $700,000 for travel on military planes.

Federal officials are supposed to travel in a cost-efficient way, but Price rarely did. The result, the report says, was a "waste of Federal funds totaling at least $341,000." The vast majority of this waste—$333,014—was due to Price's preference for chartered planes over commercial flights.

Price took at least 12 trips on chartered planes, and in each case he could have saved a considerable amount of money by flying commercial instead. In the most egregious example, a chartered flight from Seattle to D.C. cost the government $121,500, even though the average commercial cost for the same flight was less than $2,500. And Price still could have saved more than $45,000 by choosing a chartered flight that cost less than $76,000.

Price has already reimbursed the government more than $59,000 for his travel on private planes. The report recommended that the government attempt to recoup the remainder of the wasted funds as well.

In response to the report, Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan put out a statement that the department "has instituted new travel review procedures applicable to all political appointees." But Hargan also made sure to point out that "none of the travel at issue was unauthorized."

Price, who resigned last September amid the controversy, is far from the only Trump administration official to face criticism for shamelessly wasting taxpayer money. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, for example, ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his office late last year. Scott Pruitt's tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, which ended last week, was plagued by similar financial scandals, from installing an expensive soundproofed telephone booth in his office to regularly traveling first class on airlines and taking a security detail on personal trips.