Taxpayers’ bucks spent on trysts, golf, skiing

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Mr. Henry provided The Times with a letter he received after the investigation from Eric S. Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy. The letter stated that “to some extent this situation occurred in the context of an unclear and inadequate policy regarding travel” under the Pentagon’s Continuity of Operations Program, or COOP.

The inspector general’s report said COOP is a classified program containing procedures to respond to a national emergency by assigning certain duties to senior Pentagon officials on a rotating basis.

In 2007, Pentagon inspectors also raised questions about the expenses of four other senior military officials and six others at a conference in Japan “while not performing official duties,” according to a report.

The officials’ stay was extended by one day after the conference so they could attend an all-day golf event about 18 miles outside of Tokyo.

One official later told investigators that he “has found the golf productive in terms of conversation going back and forth, the communication and to provide a team-building opportunity.”

Pentagon investigators didn’t buy the argument, according to records. In the end, they questioned about $3,000 in lodging and transportation costs from the extra day’s stay and golf outing.

Overall, a GAO report released in 2007 estimated that the Pentagon had paid out about $8 million in improper travel payments, accounting for about 1 percent of more than $8 billion in reported travel payments the previous year. A previous GAO report raised questions about the high cost of premium-class travel at the Department of Defense, a practice officials have said they’ve since addressed.

“The department, as stewards of tax dollars, is constantly looking at ways to enhance management oversight over government travel, and has strict policies and procedures in place to prohibit fraud or abuse,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

She said the Pentagon is vigilant about ensuring money isn’t wasted by personnel taking premium-class flights, a recurring problem over the years throughout government.

“Out of almost 3.7 million trips taken by the DOD in fiscal 2008, only 274 (less than .01 percent) were booked as first class, and greater than 80 percent of those ‘first class’ tickets cost equal to or less than coach fares,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Times.

Not all questionable travel is by air.

At the Department of Homeland Security, the inspector general investigated two federal air marshals who carpooled together, but then separately filed claims seeking mileage reimbursements, records show.

The NSF suspended one employee for five days after she used her government travel card 21 times in five weeks to make cash withdrawals, buy gas and groceries and make a cell-phone payment.

The State Department in 2008 suspended an employee for 30 days for selling government transit subsidies outside of a subway stop in Washington, later claiming the fares were “government perks.”

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