So, proposed TRICARE fee increases are intended to cover costs of SECDEF’s weekend trips home? Would not be surprised.
April 6, 2012
A $32,000 Trip Every Weekend
The Situation Room (CNN), 5:00 P.M.
JOE JOHNS: Imagine working in Washington Monday through Friday then flying home almost every weekend to California. That’s a weekly ritual for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and get this, he does it for the most part on the taxpayers’ dime.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is back with that story.
Double duty for you today, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR: Indeed, Joe. Well, you know, look, here at the Pentagon it’s all about cutting the budget, trying to save billions of dollars, so why are taxpayers paying nearly $1 million for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to fly home on the weekends?
We mapped it all out for you. Here’s what’s going on right now. Since Panetta took office he’s flown home to California 27 times since last July. Look at the map. He starts off here in the Washington, D.C. area, Andrews Air Force Base, flies across the country and back to his home in Monterey, California. The plane costs $3200 an hour to fly. Why? Well, Secretary Panetta, of course, is one of the key members of the national security community.
Under government regulation he must have secure communications, he must have his secure team and he has to have this structure around him so he has to be on a government plane. He can’t fly ValuJet or JetBlue like you and me. So that’s why the cost. He has reimbursed the government $17,000, but the government has picked up $860,000 of that tab so far because it’s a military plane.
His spokesman says — George Little tells us, quote, “No one understands the budget pressures on the Pentagon better than Secretary Panetta, who is responsible for identifying nearly $1 billion dollars per week in defense cuts or roughly $140 million per day over the next 10 years.”
But listen to what this watchdog group says about Secretary Panetta’s spending.
STEVE ELLIS [Taxpayers for Common Sense]:He understands better than most people about the budget pressures and the issues and the fact that we’ve got a $15 trillion debt. And so at the same — to see the same individual then going and spending tens of thousands of dollars flying back home every weekend, it really sort of boggles the mind.
STARR: Many people will tell you it is not about the fact that he has to be on a secure jet and have those communications. Everyone understands it. The question on the table is how much personal travel should he be engaging in to go home on the weekends with the government having under regulation to pick up so much of the tab? Joe.
JOHNS: And, Barbara, you know, when you look at this thing, the other thing that comes to my mind is if the defense secretary is flying commercial he might also be sort of a danger for other passengers because he could become a target if he was vulnerable, though. Is that part of the argument?
STARR: Well, since 9/11 it has been the case that key members of the administration such as the defense secretary, the secretary of state — and Secretary Clinton also goes home to New York on some weekends — they have to be on a government plane. They have to have security.
JOHNS: Got it. Great. Thanks so much for that reporting once again, Barbara Starr.