They have villas in Europe and Asia and magnificent residences in the
U.S.A. They have private jets, servants, aides, chauffeur-driven limos
and helicopters galore. Nope, They're not rock or movie stars -- they're
public servants who run our Armed Forces. Our top brass have become
American royalty, fat cats in boots and helmets who live high at the
expense of the taxpayers and the grunts they command.
Take the general in charge of our Air Force Academy at Colorado
Springs who recently blew $268,010 on remodeling the kitchen in his
modest 10,660-square-foot, government-issued dwelling. He used
readiness dollars earmarked for spare parts and combat gear to sharpen
our fly boys' and girls' chances of making it in the friendly
flack-filled skies of places like Serbia. His restaurant-sized
kitchen includes three sinks, two refrigerators, two ovens and two
dishwashers, including a commercial model with a 90-second cycle.
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Meanwhile, many of our Air Force grunts live in dilapidated houses
that haven't been remodeled since current Air Force Academy chief Lt.
Gen. Tad J. Oelstrom was a captain. And for the past decade, a 100
grand per year in readiness dollars have also been spent on sprucing up
his or his general officer assistant's pad.
But it's not only the generals in blue who get away with grand theft
as a way of life. Recently Navy brass quietly used $6 million in
readiness funds -- budgeted for our fighting ships and planes -- to
spiff up three senior admirals' official residences in Hawaii,
Washington, D.C., and at the Naval Academy. Of course, none of the
admirals knew their underlings had broken the law or that readiness and
building funds, earmarked to repair Navy rank-and-file quarters, were
used. Nor did they know that in the past seven years another $4 million
had been similarly drained off and used to doll up their Beverly
Meanwhile, many Navy enlisted folks live in trailer parks they barely
While many lower rankers in Hawaii live in the low rent part of town,
the brass admit they spent $528,000 remodeling the office of the top
admiral in the Pacific, including a $54,000 new kitchen, a $30,000
marble-tiled bathroom, $12,000 in new carpets and $3,000 for an
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Or maybe you're into rocks? An Army general in Bosnia sure is. He
had his engineers set up a one ton rock with his First Cavalry insignia
emblazoned on the front of it at his headquarters in Tuzla. Now that
the Cav is being replaced by the 10th Mountain Division, the
not-so-economy-minded general decided to ship this expensive paper
weight back to home base in Texas as a battle souvenir. Reported cost
to the taxpayer: by air $50,000 and by ship $20,000. A Cav trooper
says, "Not sure where the money to ship the rock home came from, but you
can be sure the grunt down at the bottom of the totem pole got the
This attitude of me-first, the regs-don't-apply-to-the-brass and
nothing - is - too - good - for - the - troops - and - that's - what - they'll - get - nothing
isn't confined to just the star wearers. An Army colonel at Fort Bliss,
Texas, used the lion's share of his brigade's Operations and Maintenance
funds to renovate his office and command building instead of taking care
of his troops' living quarters, equipment and vehicles. Meanwhile, his
soldiers lived in barracks with broken plumbing and an air conditioning
system that didn't work because funds weren't available to get it
repaired. And according to a captain in that brigade, "Had the whistle
blown and we'd gone to war, we'd've had to tow half our vehicles out of
the motor pool."
A day doesn't pass where a brave airman, soldier, sailor or Marine
and blow the whistle on such misdeeds. They ask not to mention their names because
they're all-volunteers. Being caught blowing the whistle on such
wrongdoings means end of job, end of career. There is a law: The
Whistle Blowers Act, but because of congressional neglect, it's all gums
and no teeth.
These abuses of authority would slow down if Congress did its job.
But that'll require an attitude adjustment. James Exon, a former
senator, said our lawmakers have more important things to do than to
"decide whether a general needed a new sink in his kitchen."
I think not.