Amid fallout over a lavish General Services Administration conference that cost top officials at the agency their jobs, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta late Thursday admitted to paying just $17,000 for his commuting costs for 27 trips back to his Monterey, Calif., home on a military aircraft.
Before accepting the job as defense secretary, Mr. Panetta negotiated his right to commute home to California nearly every weekend using a military equivalent of a Gulfstream jet, as his job as Pentagon chief requires him to do.
[Panetta] For example, when we incur greater droughts, when we incur areas that in fact have less rain and are incurring unusual climate impacts, it creates obviously an impact in terms of the population. It’s something we have to be aware of because that can create chaos. We’ve seen that happen in Africa. We’ve seen that happen in other parts of the world. So we need to have that kind of intelligence....So from an intelligence point of view, it’s important for us to keep track of those trends. You know, this isn’t about the battle of climate change and the issues related to that. This is about what we are seeing happen and the intelligence that flows from that. And that is important for us to consider as we look at issues that can threaten America’s national security. (Applause.)