Here we go again. The Center for Public Integrity crunched the numbers and found that between 1998 and 2007, Defense Department personnel enjoyed “more than 22,000 trips worth at least $26 million, sponsored by an array of foreign governments, private companies and other groups which have business with the Pentagon.”
Interestingly, the medical industry paid for the bulk of the travel, to the tune of $10 million—chump change next to the Pentagon’s $6 billion prescription drug budget.
Center for Public Integrity:
Two thousand camels scissor-kicked their way along a 12-mile race track, garnering thunderous applause from the Saudi crowd. It was the 2005 Janadriyah Festival, outside Riyadh, and in attendance was Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and his special guests, a couple from northern Virginia. In addition to the festival, the prince treated Richard and Susan Millies to a musical production, banquets, and first-class flights to and from Washington, D.C. The eight-day trip ended up costing more than $24,000, with Miteb picking up the entire bill.
Why was Prince Miteb so generous to a couple from the Washington suburbs? Mr. Millies worked for the Pentagon as deputy director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which runs the program through which foreign governments purchase advanced weapons systems. And therein lies the problem, military watchdogs say, with close relationships and free travel posing potential conflicts of interest. At the time, Prince Miteb was an assistant deputy commander of the Saudi National Guard, and the kingdom utilized DSCA more than any other country except Israel and Egypt. Indeed, from 2003 through 2006, the Saudis bought $4.4 billion worth of training and equipment through the program, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some of those deals stirred controversy, including a 2008 agreement to buy $123 million worth of smart bombs.
Flickr / ivanx
Pentagon staffers routinely visit places like Rio de Janeiro, with the tab paid by foreign governments.