Leon Panetta’s Flights Home Cost Taxpayers $860,000
All of those trips that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took home, had him admitting that they cost taxpayers $860,000, and that they may have a little bit excessive. However, he indicated that his weekend trips to California have totaled nearly 30 since last July, won’t stop anytime soon. But he told reporters that he is open to alternatives that might possibly be able to save funds and, at the same time allow him to do his job and visit his family.
“For 40 years that I’ve been in this town, I’ve gone home because my wife and family are there and because, frankly, I think it’s healthy to get out of Washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight,” asserted Panetta, who owns a home with his wife in Monterey, California.
“I think the most dangerous threat to our national security right now is debt, very heavy debt, that we confront in this country,” Panetta told former Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, and Gen. Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a 1992 hearing. “I don’t question anything you’re saying in terms of the role that this country ought to perform. My problem is how the hell are we going to pay for it?”
But while the Defense Secretary is charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government’s already maxed-out credit card, Pentagon officials say they are barely scraping by as they acclimate to the “new era of fiscal austerity.” Under a new budget proposal earlier this year, the Administration called for trimming the size of the Army and Marine Corps, reducing the number of aircraft and ships, and it has submitted a request to Congress for a second round of military base closures.
Back then Panetta called the cuts difficult. And once again Panetta’s travel expenses have been blamed on the Bush Administration, which require the Defense Secretary to travel on military aircraft installed with communication links to the Pentagon and White House. President Bush’s rule also require the Defense Secretary to reimburse the government for a commercial flight to the same location, which, naturally, has a price tag that is a mere fraction of the expense to operate a military aircraft.
Panetta has reimbursed the government about $17,000 for 27 personal trips since becoming Pentagon chief, a small fraction of the original pricetag, as the total of all of his trips is $860,000. It costs the Pentagon about $3,200 per hour to operate a C-37A on Panetta’s trips. And defense officials say the expense of Panetta’s individual flights can vary, depending on the number of staff and crew members who accompany him and the itinerary. The defense secretary often schedules stops for official business at military bases while en route to California or on the way back to the Pentagon.
But critics such as Jena McGregor of the Washington Post, suggest that the extraordinary pressures of Panetta’s job entitle him to some downtime, such as the trips he takes to his California residence. While conceding that 27 weekend getaways — at a cost of more than $30,000 per flight — may “look a bit excessive,” McGregor affirms that the answer to Panetta’s ethical dilemma in this situation “is somewhere in the middle.” However, considering the nation’s grim budgetary status, which has pressured significant cuts in defense spending, one might suggest that the answer is pretty clean cut: Taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize more than $800,000 in flight expenses for the Defense Secretary’s weekend getaways.
This entry was posted on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at 6:13 pm and is filed under Finance and Business, General, In the News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.