That Leon Panetta has spent an incredible $860,000 to fly between his day job in Washington and his home in Northern California since taking office may not exactly be his fault, but even the thrifty secretary of defense himself this week can't help but notice the irony of that flight bill. Today, the airfare bill is even getting compared to the Government Services Administration's now infamous Las Vegas bender.
A brief rundown of the controversy: Earlier in April, the AP revealed that the secretary of defense, pushing to get the military to stop spending money like it's still the Cold War, billed the government $32,000 per private flight home since taking office in July, reimbursing the government only $632 for each, an amount dictated by law. Now, Panetta had no choice but to fly on the government's dime, if he wanted his weekends home. "No one understands the budget pressures on the Pentagon better than Secretary Panetta," a Defense spokesperson defensively noted. "As a required-use traveler, he must use government aircraft for all travel." But this Monday, Panetta had his hat in hand, saying he regretted the burden the trips put on taxpayers. And in a comparison of ironies, Foreign Policy notes today that $860,000 is only $28,000 more than the clown-filled Vegas conference for the GSA, an agency tasked with curtailing spending.