(Friday’s Populist Capitalist Blog Post)
Okay, we all got riled up about the Big 3 automakers flying to Washington in their Gulfstream IVs and Vs to demand an opportunity to feed at the public trough. What we missed was that the Pentagon maintains “a fleet of 16 passenger planes that are primarily used by lawmakers and other government officials.” (The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2009, “Lawmakers’ Travel Reports Understate True Cost”)
These planes cost between $3,000 and $12,000 an hour to operate, according to documents obtained by the Journal through the Freedom of Information Act. The cost to fly a small military jet from Washington to the Middle East is about $150,000. Even at this astronomical number, you can pretty much bet it is just the operating cost and does not include any amortization of the capital cost of the plane itself.
Furthermore, the State Department maintains a dedicated staff of eight that does nada else but coordinate the travel of Congressional delegations. That is the staff support that State admits to, and refuses to divulge its cost. I suspect that the true number of personnel involved easily could be higher.
I do think that Congress has a legitimate need to travel. I just think they can fly commercial, as their constituents do. They certainly don’t need the Pentagon to maintain a private fleet!