Flat screen TVs, leather chairs, cherry wood, "aesthetically pleasing" carpeting and wall and ceiling treatments—sounds like the makings for some mack daddy digs, huh? Members of the Air Force brass thought so too, as they oversaw two programs designed to provide senior military leaders with luxury aircraft accommodations costing millions of dollars, some of it diverted from counter-terrorism funds.
According to records obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, which calls these first class upgrades "a gross misuse... of taxpayer dollars," only "world class" accoutrements would do when it came to Senior Leader In-Transit Comfort Capsules (SLICCs)—"comfort" was later changed to "conference"—and Senior Leader Intransit Pallets (SLIPs), readymade senior officers' quarters that can be loaded onto a variety of military cargo planes.
After receiving the first of four SLIPs that were requisitioned, at an estimated cost of $1.66 million, General Robert McMahon, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations, and mission support was apparently less than satisfied with the finished product and requested that additional funds be spent to bring the accommodations up to his standards. "He directed that the leather be reupholstered from brown to Air Force blue leather and to replace the wood originally used to cherry," POGO's executive director Danielle Brian wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday. These changes alone cost an additional $113,000—about $84,000 of that to redo the four seats in each SLIP. A financial update [PDF] on the SLIP and SLICC projects in March noted that "cost increases have virtually all been in the area of materials and other non-labor costs due to the expense of SLICC/SLIP components and costs incurred by changing design details that were previously finalized."
As Brian points out in her letter to Gates, paying millions for a handful of tricked out cabins seems a wee bit egregious given the "deplorable state" of the seat pallets used to transport the troops. She writes, "This case is just the latest in a long string of examples which illustrate a disconnect between the senior leadership of the Air Force from the increasingly pressing needs of servicemen and women (including those inside the Air Force) in the current and likely near term conflicts our country faces."