Panetta Pays Coach Fare for $30K Flights Home

Defense secretary required to travel on military jets

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 22, 2011 5:17 PM CST

(Newser) – Leon Panetta usually heads home to California for the weekend, and the defense chief is racking up huge costs in cross-country travel, reports the Washington Times. Panetta has made the journey 14 times since taking the post in July, and the Times says each round trip in a military jet costs about $30,000. Panetta is required to reimburse the government only a fraction of that—the price it would cost him to fly commercially. “The White House understood when Mr. Panetta took the job that he would return to Monterey to visit his family, as he did when he was director of the CIA," an administration official tells the newspaper.

Because of his position, Panetta is required to take specially equipped military jets rather than commercial ones. The trips cost about $3,200 per hour, Pentagon records show. But Panetta isn’t slacking off when he heads home, says an official. “He works virtually nonstop wherever he is, including on the weekends, and believes that he does some of his best thinking when he’s away from Washington.” Still, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who's had her own share of travel controversy, says he “should speak to” the issue “in light of the cuts we are going to have to do everywhere.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is seen on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is seen on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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