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Military trips over own feet

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When it comes to public relations, the military is self-detonating.

The various branches have rightly claimed pay needs to be improved as well as other conditions to attract and keep good personnel. But then studies come out showing how the military is skirting laws and squandering millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. So much for public sympathy.

The latest report details how the military has abused policies and procedures regarding spending on homes for admirals and generals. Curbs supposedly were in place to prevent that from happening after Congress learned last year that the Navy exceeded budgets to maintain homes of just three top admirals by $5.7 million and the Air Force went over budget by $3.8 million on homes for two generals.

But despite laws enacted by Congress to prevent such exorbitant spending, abuses continue.

The inspector general, in a survey of just 18 bases, found that the military attempted end-runs on spending limits on 17 of 79 homes for admirals and generals that it reviewed.

The inspector general found six cases in which installations tried to use general base budgets to supplement spending on generals' quarters, even though Congress had specifically said only family housing funds could be used.

An additional area of concern is that limits on the size of housing for generals and admirals seem to be largely ignored.

They are allowed up to 2,310 square feet. Of the 79 quarters reviewed, 63 exceeded the current maximum. Of those 63, "23 contained more than 4,000 square feet," the inspector general reported.

Without discipline, the military can't function — that's why soldiers, seamen and airmen are expected to follow the orders of their commanding officers. Failure to do so can result in severe reprimands or even dishonorable discharges.

But those at the top need to practice what they preach. By violating the laws of their civilian leaders, they set a terrible example not only for those in the armed forces but for those who pay their wages — the taxpaying public.

Those who violate the law must be held accountable regardless of rank. Only then will Congress and the public have confidence that their money is being put to good use.