Friday, July 18, 2008

I Don't Know, But It's Been Said ...

... Air Force generals' careers are made of lead.

At least we hope so.  Over the last year, the flyboys have sent nuclear warheads flying over the continental US, transferred secret nuclear material to Taiwan, and screwed up the funding of a $50 million air show.  (And why, we ask parenthetically, are there air shows that cost $50 million?).  Oh, and two USAF generals have been fired by the SecDef for their sheer incompetence.

Comes now the happy news that the USAF has spent three years designing "comfort pods" so that VIPs travelling in military aircraft can have flat-screen TVs and full-length mirrors.  The program has cost a bundle -- interior decorating always does.   Why, just changing the seat color and pockets ran a tad under $70,000. The total seems to run a little over $16 million, apparently, since that's what the USAF has repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked Congress to divert from the GWOT.

Now, by military standards, $16 million isn't a whole lot of money.  But let's consider two things.  First, that is taxpayer money, and if it didn't go to the military in the first place, it would buy a lot of hot lunches for poor schoolchildren.  We're just saying.  And second, that American troops are fighting a war -- technically, two -- and it is virtually certain that field commanders could come up with more creative ways to spend that money.  You know, like body armor.

Unsurprisingly, junior officers are kind of unhappy about this. We don't blame them.  We're kind of unhappy ourselves.  We are especially unhappy that, when there were cost overruns on this project (surprise!), the brass decided to cover them up by by transferring $331,000 in counterterrorism funds.  Because nothing keeps Americans safe from a dirty bomb better than an airborne comfort pod.

In defense of Generals Robert McMahon and Duncan McNabb, who seem to have created this project, we will admit that standard military transport is reported to be no more comfortable than commercial air-travel in business class.  Still, having travelled in business class once or twice and quite enjoyed it, we offer this piece of advice to the good generals:  Suck it up, you contemptible goldbricks.  There are people dying in Afghanistan while you piss away money worrying about a comfy airplane seat.

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