By GERRY SHIELDS
WASHINGTON — Never mind those budget cuts — US Attorney General Eric Holder likes to travel in style on a Gulfstream jet.
As the federal government braces for a new round of cost-cutting today, a new government report found that taxpayers shelled out $11.4 million in added costs to fly top Justice Department officials on the luxury jets.
Two Gulfstream V jets were leased by Congress in 2007 for the FBI to use for counter-terrorism operations, but the Government Accountability Office found 60 percent of flying hours were for “non-mission” flights.
Holder and his predecessor, AG Michael Mukasey, used the jets for business and personal trips 88 times, according to the GAO. FBI Director Robert Mueller has flown aboard the Gulfstream 10 times.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who requested the review, blasted the use of Gulfstreams as the Justice Department threatens to delay federal trials and release detained aliens because of $85 billion in sequester budget cuts scheduled to take effect today.
The Obama administration predicted doom through the furlough of federal workers from food inspectors to FBI agents, Grassley noted.
“All the while, we spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars flying department executives on private Gulfstream jets,” said Grassley, the lead Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The AG and the FBI director are required to fly on government aircraft for security reasons, even on personal trips. But the report noted that there are aircraft available for their use that are much cheaper to fly.
And on personal trips, the officials have to reimburse the feds only for the cost of a coach ticket. When Holder flew to New York in 2010, he repaid the feds $421 for a Gulfstream flight that cost taxpayers $15,000.
Grassley intends to grill Holder before the committee next week.
“And I hope he’ll be able to come up here and tell us that, given the sequester, the era of taxpayer-funded trips for personal use of Gulfstream jets is over,” Grassley said.