Boondoggle in Paradise
In today's Post, Al Kamen rightly fires a few shots of moral approbation at the senior leaders of the National Guard for holding their annual conference in the Virgin Islands. No doubt so they could conduct a feasibility study of snorkeling for the new Army physical fitness test. Kamen writes:
Hundreds of their top state and national leaders were also away from home this week, deployed to protect the Eastern Caribbean from infiltration by our enemies.
Yes, it's the Adjutants General Association of the United States Spring Conference on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, aptly titled "Guarding Paradise With Culture and Spice."
The week-long gathering of the top brass -- with a separate agenda for spouses that includes much touring, boating and shopping -- is being held at the spectacular Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, with great golfing opportunities and other luxury amenities for the bargain government rate of only $260 a night.
Don't worry: There are half-day meeting sessions on the schedule, allowing plenty of time for all to relax and enjoy the beauty of the islands they are protecting.
By one estimate, the total bill to taxpayers for lodging, per diem and travel should easily top $1 million. (The National Guard budget shortfalls these days exceed $10 billion.)
Well, paradise can always use protection. Next year's meeting is in Jackson Hole, Wyo. In June.
I understand ya'll work hard -- but the optics of this are terrible. You could have chosen any number of places in the United States -- Las Vegas, for instance -- and avoided this kind of story. And you could've built some things into a trip like that, like a visit to the Air Force's state-of-the-art UAV facility at Nellis Air Force Base, or a field trip to Yucca Mountain to study the security issues for that nuclear waste site.
But noooooooo... you chose to schedule a boondoggle in the Virgin Islands, at taxpayer expense, while your troops are deployed. I don't want to suggest that senior officers and defense officials need to be ascetics. But this shows bad judgment.
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