David Cloud’s well-reported piece in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times on the well-appointed mansions that are home to our nation’s top military commanders is attracting a fair amount of attention.
Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force four-star who commands NATO, gets a 15,000-square-foot, 19th century chateau in Belgium. Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, head of Marine Forces Reserve, enjoys a 19th century plantation house in New Orleans listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and their deputies inhabit historic quarters in and around Washington — all staffed with chefs, drivers, gardeners and security teams.
There are two basic ways of looking at this:
1. Amid ever-tightening Pentagon budgets, the jarring realization that the brass are living regally amid grounded warplanes, moored warships and furloughed civilians is disconcerting. Given the current fiscal pickle, shouldn’t they shuck some the gold-plated appointments and staff that come with their position?
2. That these senior military leaders, most of whom have traipsed around the globe, sometimes with their families, and sometimes without, deserve such accommodations in their final years of service. After all, supporters say, many of them frequently use their abodes for official entertaining on behalf of the government of the United States.
Battleland opts to play King Solomon here: there is too much high-on-the-hog housing for military leaders, and some of it should be scaled back. But part and parcel of being a superpower is to bear the burden of its accoutrements (definition #2: A soldier’s outfit, other than weapons and garments).