Report: Defense Secretary Panetta Defends $860,000 Cost for Weekend Trips Home

By Staff | April 17, 2012 | 6:15 AM EDT

From the Washington Times: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday defended the $860,000 that taxpayers have paid so far for weekend flights aboard military aircraft to and from his California home.

“I’ve gone home because my wife and family are there and because, frankly, I think it’s healthy to get out of Washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight,” he told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.

The defense secretary last week admitted that he has paid about $17,000 of the $860,000 in travel costs — about 2 percent — for the trips to California.

“Normally, I’ve flown home commercially. In this job, I’m obligated to be in touch with communications and have to fly on a secure plane,” Mr. Panetta said.

Each round-trip costs taxpayers $32,000, and Mr. Panetta is required to repay just a fraction of the cost — the equivalent of a commercial round-trip ticket — for the personal travel, according to federal rules.