Leon Panetta the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) made one of the conditions of taking the job being home every weekend. Which is a nice perk for a big wig in Washington, they hardly ever get a day off, especially the SECDEF in a time of war. The catch is his home is in California and he works in DC. (Read the full article here.)
I took this picture while at the POW/MIA memorial ceremony in Washington DC at the Pentagon. We were able to have a few minutes with the SECDEF before he had to rush off for “an important engagement.” Little did I know at the time the engagement was a flight home.
I met Leon Panetta when I was in the hospital in Fort Belvior Virginia, he come across as a really nice guy who sincerely wants to do good things for the Military. He has fought in Congress to keep the defense budget from being cut. He wants the Military to be properly funded, and rightfully so an underfunded Military is a recipe for disaster. Yet he travels at taxpayer expense across the country every weekend. When he travels he is required to travel by Military transport. His taxi happens to be an Air Force C-37, the Military version of a Gulf stream jet. He is required to pay back what a full-fare coach seat would cost approximately $630. The operating costs of the C-37 are $3200 an hour. He has paid back to the taxpayers approximately $17,000, against a cost of $860,000. That’s a hell of a deal, especially for the SECDEF in a time of war, where the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines he’s in charge of are lucky to get a their 30 days leave they accrue each year. And when they do go on leave, they have to pay out-of-pocket. The only time they get a free plane ticket home is from combat, and with the 9 month deployments coming the government is doing away with leave from combat zones.
Leon Panetta regrets using taxpayer money to fly home every weekend, yet he still does it. His two predecessors didn’t take as many long trips home combined as he does. Robert Gates spent most of his time as SECDEF in DC, going home to his house in Washington state occasionally. Donald Rumsfeld did travel to his home frequently on the weekends, but he lived on Maryland’s eastern shore, a few thousand miles shorter than Panettas trips.
In this time of belt tightening across the board in the government and among the citizens it is reprehensible for Mr. Panetta to make travel to California each weekend a condition of employment. If he requires that much time in California he needs to get a job closer to home or pay his own way. This is another shining example of the waste going on in Washington, and we need to stop it. We need to stop giving these sweetheart deals to the people in charge who can actually afford them. This is not only a waste, but what signal is that sending to the troops on the ground? “We know you are fighting wars, often every other year, and you can’t go see your families every weekend. But we think it’s important to let the guy who sits back and quartebacks from a secure room in Washington to get every weekend at home, and not pay for it. You understand right? Thanks.”
This do as I say and not as I do attitude that is permeating the Military hierarchy is one more reason I am glad I am retiring. I can’t see this attitude helping the Military go anywhere but down fast.