Defense Secratary Leon Panetta flies home every weekend in a military Gulfstream 550 passing the $32,000 round trip cost onto you, the taxpayer. How you feel about that, sucka? Huh?
MERCED SUN STAR
Monday, Apr. 16, 2012
Panetta regrets expense of weekend trips home
LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta said Monday he regrets the cost to taxpayers for his weekend
trips to his California home, but says it's important "just to get your
mind straight and your perspective straight."
Panetta said he'd try to find some savings, with each round trip costing approximately $32,000.
regret that it does, you know, that it does add costs that the taxpayer
has to pick up," Panetta said during a Pentagon briefing Monday,
speaking publicly for the first time about the flight costs. "A taxpayer
would have to pick up those costs with any secretary of state or
secretary of defense. But having said that, I am trying to look at what
are ... the alternatives here that I can look at that might possibly be
able to save funds and, at the same time, be able to fulfill my
responsibilities, not only to my job, but to my family."
Associated Press earlier this month detailed the costs of the 27
roundtrip flights home Panetta has taken since he became Pentagon chief
last July, as well as the amount he has reimbursed the government for
Panetta is required to travel on military aircraft so
he can remain in constant, secure contact with the White House and other
top civilian and military leaders. And he routinely works, makes phone
calls and, when necessary, travels a short distance for secure video
conferences while he is at home at his family's walnut farm.
bill for the travel is calculated according to reimbursement formulas
dictated by longstanding federal policies using what a full-fare coach
trip would cost. And the Pentagon says it costs about $3,200 per flight
hour to operate the small plane he usually uses for the 10-hour round
He has reimbursed the Treasury about $17,000 for the travel, based on a government formula, or about $630 per round trip.
Based on fuel and other operating expenses for his Air Force plane, the 27 trips have cost the government as much as $860,000.
Panetta flies on an Air Force C-37 - somewhat comparable to a
Gulfstream jet - which is the lowest-cost aircraft that can carry the
necessary communications equipment.
Panetta did not detail what alternatives he may be looking at in order to find some savings.
two predecessors didn't make such frequent, long trips home. Robert
Gates spent most weekends in the nation's capital, but traveled
occasionally to his family home in Washington state. Donald H. Rumsfeld
also lived in the D.C. area, but often spent weekends at his house in
St. Michaels on Maryland's Eastern shore.
Army Gen. Martin
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was sitting next to
Panetta during the Pentagon briefing and jumped to the secretary's
"Let me help the boss here, because if I couldn't get a
hold of him, we'd have a really different relationship," said Dempsey,
adding that Panetta "doesn't get much rest in California, based on the
number of times I know that I'm in contact with him."
noted that Panetta often couples his trip home with visits to military
bases. "This is not about him just using that airplane to get himself
back and forth to the West Coast every weekend."
On nine occasions
so far, Panetta has scheduled domestic trips to bases and other events
on Thursdays and Fridays, allowing him to travel part way across the
country for business, then fly the rest of the way to California for the
weekend. In those cases he reimburses the government for the difference
between the cost of the full trip minus the cost of flying directly to
the base or official event location and back to Washington.
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