July 22, 2008

Anti-terrorism funds for “comfort”

Posted in War on Terrorism tagged , , , at 7:41 pm by Katharine Lackey

Over three years, the Air Force asked that funds — totaling $16.2 million — be diverted from the global war on terrorism to construct “comfort capsules” in military planes used by senior officers and civilian leaders, The Washington Post reports.

The designs for the details are vetted by at least four top generals and involve such mundane details as the color of the carpets and leather chairs that adorn the capsule (since when to generals care what color their furniture is??).  Production on the first capsule has already begun.

Air Force officials say the government needs the new capsules to ensure that leaders can talk, work and rest comfortably in the air.

Apparently, Air Force documents even say that the capsules are required to be “aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule,” and should include such extravagances as a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, as well as other items not essential to flight — couches and tables.

As if this wasn’t enough, some Air Force generals have demanded changes be made to the capsules, normally with the color-scheme (seriously? we’re worrying about colors when we’re supposed to be fighting a war?!)

One request was that the color of the leather for the seats and seat belts in the mobile pallets be changed from brown to Air Force blue and that seat pockets be added; another was that the color of the table’s wood be darkened.

The total cost of the above request is around $68,000.

At least Congress seems to have the right mind in this situation — they have twice told Air Force officials that the counterterrorism funds are not meant to be used on color-coordinated capsules. Yet, the Air Force disobeyed that order, spending $331,000 from counterterrorism funds to cover a cost overrun — mostly because of the color switch.

The total cost has been reduced to $7.2 million (from the $16 million cited above) because of cutbacks in the number of capsules.

Still the bottom line: The Air Force is spending money for its top ranking officials to fly in capsules — that are probably better than some first-class seats on civilian flights — while those soldiers who are actually fighting the war fly in transport planes one officer called “shoddy.”

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