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Panetta Repays US Treasury $17000

Defense Secretary Leon PanettaOfficial figures show that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has spent about $630 for each round trip between the Pentagon, the headquarters for the Department of Defence in Virginia, to northern California. There were over two dozen of these trips, which were taken on military aircraft and cost the Treasury about $32,000. The totals have been detailed for Panetta for the first time, showing that he reimbursed the Treasury about $17,000 for 27 of these trips. According to fuel and other operating expenses, those 27 flights cost $860,000.

Panetta (73) is required to travel on military planes as chief of the Pentagon, as they have the secure communications equipment needed to stay in contact with the president and other officials in case there’s a problem. His travel bill is calculated according to reimbursement formulas laid out in federal policies that use what a full-fare coach trip would cost. The Department of Defence says it costs about $3,200 per flight hour to run the Air Force plane. The defence secretary usually flies for ten hours in a round trip.

Panetta clearly said he would continue returning home to his family on weekends when he took the position. He had done this in his role as the director of the CIA for the last two years, as well as while he was a member of Congress between 1977 and 1993. Sylvia, Panetta’s wife, works full time at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy. The pair established the institute in 1997 in Monerey, California. Because of this, the defence secretary routinely works, makes calls and travels short distances for secure video conferences while at his family home.

Despite the cost of Panetta’s flights, it’s only a fraction of the proposed $614 million budget. However, this still comes at a particularly hard financial period for the department. If Congress is unable to reach an agreement on additional revenues elsewhere or savings in the federal budget by next year, officials may have to cut almost $1 trillion in defence spending over the next decade. The defence secretary is noted to have budget skills, which were sharpened in his roles as head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, chairman of the House Budget Committee and White House chief of staff under President Clinton.

George Little, the press secretary for the Pentagon, says nobody understands the pressure about the budget than Panetta. He is responsible for identifying almost $1 billion in defence cuts every week, which is about $140 million per day, over the next decade. He has to use government aircraft to travel because he’s a required-use traveller. He values his family time, and spending time at home helps him recharge and focus on the job.

Tommy Vietor, the national security spokesman for the White House, says that Panetta has done a great job in his role, as well as when he was working for the CIA. He has been on call 24/7 and always been reachable through secure channels when necessary.

There have been a few instances when Panetta was in California when a tragedy hit. On March 10, he got a call at home that a US soldier went on a rampage and shot villagers in Afghanistan, including women and children. The soldier did this while the villagers were sleeping, and Panetta spent time talking with the military and security officials about how to handle the situation. He even called Afghan President Hamiid Karzai with promise that the soldier would be held accountable and to extend his condolences.

 

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