Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Panetta's many trips back home Outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta says it has been important for him to be home in California nearly every weekend to recharge his batteries "to be able to come back and make the kind of decisions you have to make."
No one should begrudge any reasonable time Panetta and other Obama cabinet members spend away from Washington with their spouses and/or family members. More power to them.
But in Panetta's case, the cross-country commute is a particularly generous perk and comes at considerable expense for taxpayers.
Each flight costs the Pentagon an estimated $32,000. Yet, Panetta is only required to pay $630 per trip -- the equivalent of a round-trip commercial flight.
In April of last year, Panetta's office told the Associated Press that he had paid $17,000 for 27 trips back to California (an average of $629 per trip).
If Panetta was going home nearly every weekend -- something he has acknowledged -- the taxpayer tab for his time as defense secretary would top $3 million, according to the Washington Times.
For security reasons, the government requires all defense secretaries to use the military equivalent of a Gulfstream jet. We get that.
But the government's formula for reimbursement for such travel is woefully inadequate.
Panetta's travel arrangement -- agreed to by the Obama administration -- surely offends many active-duty servicemen who have endured repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and have had to rely on technology to stay in contact with loved ones.
Equally frustrating has been the stonewalling by Panetta, a former CIA director and long-time Democratic congressman, when he was asked by the Washington Times for copies of receipts of his reimbursements for personal travel -- repayments that are mandated by federal law.
The government hasn't been any help either, acknowledging the newspaper's request for information related to Panetta's personal travel, but saying it was placed in "our complex processing queue" and would be handled in the order it was received.
Take ticket No. 1,241 and be seated, the government seems to be saying.
An officer in defense's Freedom of Information Act office says he "hoped to establish a more definitive timeline within the next couple weeks" on the newspaper's request.
By that time, though, Panetta will be long gone.
If Panetta was going home nearly every weekend, the taxpayer tab for his time as defense secretary would top $3 million.