Why Do Senior Generals Live Like Billionaires?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 18 2012 10:36 AM

Why Do Senior Generals Live Like Billionaires?

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The cap of General David Petraeus shows his four-star rank in this 2007 file photo

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

In the near-constant incremental coverage of the scandal that forced CIA director David Petraeus to resign, one aspect of the retired four-star general's lifestyle that has come to light but has received little attention to date is "the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle," writes the Washington Post.

Former defense secretary Robert Gates flatly points to the many benefits that a four-star general receives as perhaps one of the things that may have contributed to Petraeus’ actions. “There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people’s judgment,” Gates said.

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The commanders who lead the U.S. military have, among other things, palatial homes, executive jets, drivers, security guards, aides, and gourmet chefs at their disposal. In all, the military leaders receive more perks and benefits than anyone in the government besides the president, writes the Post. That kind of lifestyle can contribute to a disconnect from reality. Gates says he tried to cut back on the perks when he led the Pentagon but quickly discovered it amounted to the “third rail” of the Defense Department.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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