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Pentagon Funds Lap Dances
July 30, 2002
by George Getz

WASHINGTON, DC -- Quiz question: Which of the following items have been charged to the taxpayers recently by military personnel wielding government-issued credit cards?

(a) $38,000 for lap dancing at strip clubs near military bases.

(b) $3,400 for a Sumo wrestling suit and $9,800 for Halloween costumes.

(c) $7,373 for closing costs on a home and $16,000 for a corporate golf membership.

(d) $4,600 for white beach sand and $19,000 worth of decorative "river rock" at a military base in the Arabian desert.

(e) all of the above.

"Incredibly, the answer is 'all of the above,' said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party executive director. "Thanks to the federal government's policy of doling out credit cards with no questions asked, the military has launched a raid on your wallet."

The shocking revelations are contained in a General Accounting Office audit released last week that uncovered $101 million in "seemingly unneeded expenditures" made by the Air Force and Army in 2000 and 2001. The purchases were made possible by the federal government's lax credit card policy: At least 1.4 million Defense Department employees carry credit cards, and last year they used them to splurge on $6.1 billion in goods and services, the audit found.

In one case, a group of 200 soldiers used their military IDs and government-issued travel cards to get cash at adult-entertainment bars, then spent the money there. The clubs charged a 10 percent fee to supply the soldiers with cash -- then billed the full amount to their travel cards as a restaurant charge, the GAO found.

"Are these warriors really fighting terrorism while frolicking in a strip club, or defending our country while wearing a Sumo wrestling suit?" asked Dasbach. "Americans who support a bigger defense budget, take note: The Pentagon frequently behaves like any other bloated, reckless government agency. It promises your money will be spent on the worthiest of causes, then squanders it on things you could never even imagine."

Other spending uncovered by the audit included $45,000 for luxury cruises, $1,800 for executive pillows, and $24,000 for a sofa and armchair at a military installation in the Middle East, Dasbach noted.

Some military employees actually defended the purchases, the audit noted, by saying that recreational items such as golf memberships can be "a useful tool for building good relations with a host country" such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

Not surprisingly, Dasbach said, the audit found "little evidence of documented disciplinary action" against those who misused the cards, so taxpayers may end up paying the tab.

"It's time to impose a little military discipline on these deadbeat Defense Department workers, and force them to personally reimburse taxpayers for every penny of improper spending," he said.

"Then cut the Pentagon's massive $379 billion budget to help guard against such wasteful spending in the future. Perhaps that's one way to force the Pentagon to spend its resources defending the country, instead of offending the taxpayer."

George Getz is Press Secretary for the Libertarian Party.

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