Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flies home to California almost every weekend, racking up costs for the American taxpayer roughly equal to the cost of the General Services Administration’s junket to Las Vegas that has Congress fuming mad this week.
The AP reported earlier this month that Panetta, who has been commuting to his northern California home each weekend for decades, has made at least 27 round trips on government airplanes since becoming defense secretary and only reimburses the taxpayer $630 of the $32,000 cost of each trip. He is only legally required to reimburse the government for the commercial coach class fare.
Advertisement – story continues below
Obama administration officials say Panetta likes to recharge his battery and often makes side trips to military bases while he’s out West. Regardless, the optics of the expense don’t look good at a time when the United States is in the middle of a fiscal crisis and Congress is searching hard to eliminate waste in government spending.
At Monday’s Pentagon press briefing, Panetta was asked about the travel expenses, which now total about $860,000.
“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,” he said, noting that as defense secretary, he is not permitted to fly commercial and must be always reachable.
Read More at Foreign Policy By Josh Rogin