Pentagon Wasted Millions
The Defense Department spent an estimated $100 million for airline tickets that were not used over six years and failed to seek refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable, congressional investigators say.
The department compounded the problem by reimbursing employee claims for tickets the Pentagon bought, the investigators said.
To demonstrate how easy it was to have the Pentagon pay for airline travel, the investigators posed as defense employees, had the department generate a ticket and showed up at the ticket counter to pick up a boarding pass.
The General Accounting Office of Congress issued the findings in two reports on the Pentagon’s lack of control over airline travel, copies of which the Associated Press obtained yesterday. A prior report, issued last November, found that the Pentagon bought 68,000 first-class or business-class airline seats for employees who should have flown coach.
“At a time when our soldiers are patrolling the streets of Iraq in unarmored Humvees, and when the Bush administration is asking for record defense spending, Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld is letting hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to protect our troops and our country go to waste,” said Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of three lawmakers — along with Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Susan Collins (Maine) — who ordered the studies.
The GAO estimated that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department bought at least $100 million in tickets that were not used or used only partially by a passenger who did not complete all legs of a flight. The waste went undetected because the department relied on individuals to report the unused tickets. They did not.
This is obviously unacceptable and better measures need to be put in place. Granted, the 2004 Defense budget was $390 Billion and the $100 million was spread over six years. Still, that’s a lot of body armor. It should be noted that four of the six years in question occured before Rumsfeld took office, so the blame is hardly his alone.