David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington — The U.S. Secret Service said today that some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt from President Barack Obama's directive that all federal vehicles purchased starting 2015 be advanced technology models.
Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the directive wouldn't apply to vehicles used for some law enforcement or security reasons by various federal agencies.
"Certain specialized vehicles including those with law enforcement and security specifications are not subject to this directive," Novy said.
That would include the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade. It also expected to include many law enforcement vehicles.
Obama announced the plan this week to "green" the federal fleet.
"I'm directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent — 100 percent of our vehicles," Obama said today at an appearance in Landover, Md., at UPS facility to urge private companies to green their vehicle fleets.
Obama noted that the federal government has more than 600,000 vehicles — the largest fleet in the United States — and has doubled the number of hybrids in its fleet over the last year — though they still account for less than 5 percent of government vehicles.
"That means we've got a lot of purchasing power.So what we're doing is we're using it to boost clean energy technologies," Obama said.
The White House says the advanced technology vehicles that the government will buy in 2015 include hybrids, electric vehicles and alternative fueled vehicles. Among those are "flex fuel" vehicles that can run on E85 ethanol or gasoline — something that costs automakers less than $100. Many full-size SUVs are flex-fuel models, and automakers get credits toward meeting fuel efficiency standards to build them even if drivers never use the higher blend of ethanol.
As a candidate for president in 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama unveiled an enegy strategy that called for boosting electric vehicles in the federal fleet.
"Within one year of becoming President, the entire White House fleet will be converted to plug -ins as security permits; and half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug-in hybrids or all electric by 2012," the fact sheet said.
The White House hasn't converted any vehicles yet. The government plans to buy 100 plug-in electric vehicles this year; it's not clear what federal agencies will use them.
No written guidance to federal departments has been issued about what types of models they can purchase or what agencies are exempt. It's not clear if it would apply to all military vehicles either.
This won't be the first time a president has exempted some vehicles from vehicle rules. In 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order calling for 2 percent annual reductions in gasoline usage among most federal vehicles. The order included language allowing agency heads to exempt intelligence and "law enforcement, protective, emergency response, or military tactical vehicle fleets."
Last year, Obama said he had asked the Secret Service if he could ride in a hybrid vehicle — he was rejected.
"Now, the reason is not because Secret Service are bad guys. It's because the cars that I'm in are like tanks. I mean, they, as you might imagine, they're a little bit of extra stuff on it. They're a little reinforced.So they weigh twice or three times what an ordinary car weighs. So they just couldn't get the performance, in terms of acceleration, using a hybrid engine," Obama said.
The presidential limousine is assembled by General Motor Co. at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. In January 2009, GM delivered a new limousine for White House use — the 2009 Cadillac presidential limousine - which replaced the 2006 Cadillac DTS presidential limousine.
The vehicle has heavy armor that is reportedly at least 5 inches thick . The limousine also has run-flat tires, bulletproof glass and a completely sealed interior to ward off a chemical attack, among many other high-tech security features.It also has significant electronic communications equipment.
The limousine weighs more than 10,000 pounds and is built off a medium-duty trick platform. The government won't disclose its fuel efficiency.
This isn't the first time law enforcement has been exempted from a vehicle policy by the Obama administration.
Obama signed an October 2009 executive order banning texting behind the wheel by all federal employees. But he said agency heads may exempt "certain employees, devices, or vehicles in their respective agencies that are engaged in or used for protective, law enforcement, or national security responsibilities or on the basis of other emergency conditions."