Photo: Flickr user smartjunco
It’s tax day. People are flipping out about the government bureaucrats who spent a lavish time in Vegas. And now people can flip out about our defence secretary, who takes an Air Force C-37 from Washington to his home in California for the weekends.
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.
His 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 trip.
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 has acknowledged the enormous expense of all this, and has reimbursed the government, and has said he is considering alternatives for reducing the cost. “I regret that it does, you know, that it does add costs that the taxpayer has to pick up,” he told the AP.
On nine occasions he has even handled business matters in different parts of the country closer to the weekend so that his flight home isn’t so long and costly.
Previous secretaries of defence have usually lived closer to Washington.
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