Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Imperial Life Style of Top Generals and Admirals

While rank and file troops often live in bare basics accommodations or far worse in the field, the military's top brass live a lifestyle akin to a Tsar or maharajah and, from the ones I have encountered locally often have an attitude that their you know what doesn't stink.  One cannot help but ponder whether such an out of touch lifestyle doesn't impair their ability to care about their troops many of whom in the chain of command are treated as if their were members of India's untouchables versus Brahmins.   If we need to cut military spending, let's start with the lavish perks of the top commands.  A piece in the Washington Post looks ate the ridiculous luxuries and staffs these men outrageously enjoy.  Here are highlights:

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.

Since Petraeus’s resignation, many have strained to understand how such a celebrated general could have behaved so badly. Some have speculated that an exhausting decade of war impaired his judgment. Others wondered if Petraeus was never the Boy Scout he appeared to be. But [former Defense Secretary] Gates, who still possesses a modest Kansan’s bemusement at Washington excess, has floated another theory. “There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people’s judgment,” Gates said last week.

Other veteran commanders concurred with Gates. David Barno, a retired three-star general who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warned in an interview that the environment in which the top brass lives has the potential “to become corrosive over time upon how they live their life.”

“You can become completely disconnected from the way people live in the regular world — and even from the modest lifestyle of others in the military,” Barno said. “When that happens, it’s not necessarily healthy either for the military or the country.”

Although American generals have long enjoyed many perks — in World War II and in Vietnam, some dined on china set atop linen tablecloths — the amenities afforded to today’s military leaders are more lavish than anyone else in government enjoys, save for the president.

Compared with today’s plutocrats, their pay is modest. In 2013, the base salary for a four-star general with at least 38 years of service will be almost $235,000, although federal personnel regulations limit their take-home pay to $179,700. Unlike top civilians in government, top generals also receive free housing and subsidies for food and uniforms. And when they retire, those who have served at least 40 years get an annual pension that is slightly more than active-duty base pay — this year it is $236,650.

But the frantic search for cuts to reduce the growth of government debt could soon put some of the four-star benefits at risk. When he was at the Pentagon, Gates wanted to trim some of the perks but ran into resistance. It was, he said, the “third rail” of the Defense Department.

“You don’t need a cadre of people at your beck and call in an age of austerity, unless you are a field commander in Iraq or Afghanistan,” a former top aide to Gates said on the condition of anonymity.

I would further argue against such perks for those who have so poorly advised - or perhaps even lied to - leaders in Washington.  Candidly, some of these a-holes need to spend a few days or a week at the front living like average troops, with no attendants and special meals, to help get their heads out of their pampered asses.

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