The desperate scramble to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan has taxed the military’s air transportation capabilities, but that hasn’t stopped Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm from chartering military flights for a conference in Ukraine.
While the harrowing evacuation from Afghanistan has captivated the attention of the entire nation, with tragedies such as the deaths of 13 soldiers all over the internet, criticism of the Biden administration has mounted, and the use of a military jet for such a purpose, and at a time like this, may only add more fuel to the already burgeoning fire. The leak comes at a time when the situation in Kabul is so serious, American citizens are reportedly being turned away from the airport there, and fears of another serious attack on the airport are rife.
The evacuation has been sufficiently difficult enough for the Pentagon to institute an emergency program it calls the “Civil Reserve Air Fleet,” and mandate civilian airlines, including such big names as American Airlines and Delta Airlines, to provide planes and flight crews to transport evacuees. The last time the program was used was in the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.
As for Granholm, military joyrides can ruin careers, even for cabinet members. One of Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretaries, Tom Price, had to resign in 2017 after it was discovered he routinely used military aircraft, ultimately costing the taxpayers $500,000 in travel expenses. Scott Pruitt, Trump’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, also had to resign in 2018 after his own usage of military flights became public, to the tune of $58,000 in taxpayer money. Steven Mnuchin, former Treasury Secretary under Trump, managed to keep his job, but faced serious questions about his usage of unnecessary military flights.
The White House defended the flight to the Washington Free Beacon, confirming that Gaholm did use a military aircraft while insisting such usage was “standard protocol” due to the fact that the meeting in Ukraine was a diplomatic summit and Graholm was there in an official capacity representing President Biden. The Department of Energy itself declined to comment.
Plenty of other commentators, however, felt a little differently about such justification, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):
Who in the Biden White House approved a chartered military jet to Ukraine for the Energy secretary at a time when all our resources and focus should be on getting Americans out of Afghanistan? https://t.co/lFRefpKTC8
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 28, 2021
“Standard operating procedure does not apply during a national security crisis; these moments require judgment. The fact that the White House chose to send a cabinet member overseas on a non-mission-essential visit, unnecessarily diverting State Department and DOD resources, is ludicrous, not to mention an abuse of taxpayer dollars,” one former Trump administration official told the Free Beacon.
“As President Biden recently said, we are in a ‘winter of peril,’ so it’s disconcerting to see administration officials essentially taking joy rides on military aircraft. It’s the definition of fraud, waste, and abuse,” stated Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Public Integrity Project.
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