National Security News Service investigated visits to carriers and found some questionable use of the Navy’s resources. The visits to the aircraft carriers – which cost an average half million dollars a day to operate – are not illegal but raise questions of propriety.
The Navy limits the general public to in-port tours of ships and submarine and it reserves its embarkation trips for distinguished guests, according to the Navy.
“These individuals, in turn, make positive contributions to the public understanding of the roles and missions of the Navy by having their experience promoted through various media outlets,” the Navy writes on its website.
But computer searches found no stories generated by any of the five trips that National Security News Service investigated.
Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Defense Intelligence, who monitored defense and national security issues for Senate Democrats and Republicans and the Government Accountability Office, scoffs at the Navy’s assertion that $50 per person covers all the costs of these trips.
“Baloney,” Wheelers says. “These kinds of trip are expensive. They’re taking corporate executives to spend the night on aircraft carriers and they’re telling you it only costs $50? We need to find out all the costs and who made the decisions granting all these junkets.”
The Navy uses C-2A Greyhound twin-engine cargo planes to fly visitors to aircraft carriers but says it only flies guests when it is transporting other essential cargo or personnel to the ship. Wheeler says that needs to be checked.
“These types of aircraft cost several thousand dollars an hour to operate,” the defense analyst says.
Wheeler says that House and Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committees should hold hearings because, he says, House and Senate Armed Services Committees and House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on defense have not been doing their jobs.
“They have been oblivious to this kind of abuse,” Wheeler says. “They seem to think this is routine and acceptable. This kind of behavior is just fine with them. The committees and their staffs participate in these kinds of junkets routinely.”
“No, it’s not a good use of taxpayer money,” Ben Friedman, an analyst at Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, says. “Taking bigwigs who have no obvious business on it out to an aircraft carrier makes no sense. It’s not an amusement park.”
According to his official biography, Dalton began his public service career after serving with the investment banking firm of Goldman, Sachs & Company in Dallas, Texas. In March 2008, as investor losses mounted in the housing securitization markets and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided an emergency loan to try to avert a sudden collapse of Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs executives went on a cruise.
On March 25th and 26th, 2008, representatives from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, a self-described “young business leaders” group, visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier CVN-71 for an overnight tour.
Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a series on the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Visitors cruises.