DOD elite live extravagant corporate 1% life

The Washington Post has an interesting article today about the lifestyles of the rich and famous within the upper ranks of the US military.  For those who don’t follow this world, it’s an eye-opening story.

Some (mostly former top brass) argue that the perks are normal and fair, considering the size of the budgets and personnel. I’ve heard the same from the big state universities who keep forking out high salaries and perks to school presidents, and it sounded like garbage to me then as well. It just seems unfair and excessive.

fancy general

Fancy general via Shutterstock

There’s no question that US corporate CEOs are pampered and overpaid (they can’t all be superstars, can they?).  But if that’s the comparison that some former military elite want to use, it only shows you just how out of touch they really are.

It’s one thing to have the lifestyles of the corporate elite funded by shareholders, but when taxpayers are funding the extravagance, it’s slightly different.

If it’s perks they want want, they should have moved into private industry. You can’t talk about service to your country, and then demand perks that are far beyond even the political elite. Too much is too much, especially when everyone in Washington is talking about cutting costs for everyone else. Some of the pampered class don’t even have the dignity to even try and hide their taste for luxury on the tax dollar.

Flashy motorcades? Check. Personal chefs? Check. Yard workers? Check. Personal valet? Check. Private jets? Check.

It’s so excessive, you might even be tempted to overlook the juicy perks of those in Congress.

Washington Post:

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.

Since Petraeus’s resignation, many have strained to understand how such a celebrated general could have behaved so badly. Some have speculated that an exhausting decade of war impaired his judgment. Others wondered if Petraeus was never the Boy Scout he appeared to be. But Gates, who still possesses a modest Kansan’s bemusement at Washington excess, has floated another theory.

“There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people’s judgment,” Gates said last week.

The problem is, there’s too much of this sense of entitlement among the 1% and the political/military class. Oh sure, it’s no problem to cut things like Medicare or Social Security, but touch the government healthcare plan, or the incredible retirement that they have, and it’s war.

In their minds, they’re our betters — and shouldn’t have to give up this lifestyle.

In the end, they’re not that much different from the Wall Street bankers who were more concerned about their lifestyle being bailed out than saving the country. We no longer have isolated pockets of these people, but an entire class of them that live at the top of the food chain yet still aren’t happy with what they have.

Of course, both the political and military class do get more, once they “retire” and then dive into private industry where they make a lot of money and use their power and connections to push new business deals that cost us all a lot of money.

Ike would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the lifestyle of today’s generals.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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55 Responses to “DOD elite live extravagant corporate 1% life”

  1. Tor says:

    One group is paid by fans, and the other is paid by the tax-payers. You figure it out.

  2. nicho says:

    I AM a 2-star general. I get all that stuff — and I want more.

  3. Arcwc says:

    I don’t know about the Army, but if you want to have any kind of real leadership position in the Air Force you pretty much have to have been a pilot. It’s not written in stone and there are a few exceptions, but it’s true for the most part.

  4. Arwcw says:

    Nothing wrong with that statement.

  5. karmanot says:

    Can we say ‘Petraeus’ now.

  6. Stev84 says:

    Bullshit. Combat experience is only needed for the command of combat units. But there are plenty of generals who only serve on some higher general’s staff or who command units that are responsible for training, combat support, medical, research, logistics, etc.

    How do you think women become generals in the Army or Marine Corps? It’s just that without having commanded combat units it’s very hard to achieve three or four stars – and impossible to be a Chief of Staff for example. But becoming a one or two star in support isn’t restricted like that.

  7. Syd says:

    if you have never been pregnant you should never speak about matters relating to a woman’s choice. See how that works?

  8. YouALLsuck says:

    You are an idiot. Most generals are Spec Ops or fighter pilots? Lol. You really have no idea how it works do you? ‘Combat experience’ also is not required by any stretch of the imagination to achieve rank.

  9. A reader in Colorado says:

    Perhaps we should go to the Taliban system of forbidding movies and music.

  10. George Salt says:

    So, they are defending me from … themselves? What you are describing is a protection racket. Not that I take seriously your wackjob rant.

  11. Weedlord Bonerhitler says:

    They are the only thing standing between millions of enlisted men making $10 hour to put their lives on the line only to be discarded once they get back from the frontlines. These disaffected soldiers could very easily be swayed toward a complete overthrowing of this nation, but they answer to a chain of command that enjoys enough perks to keep it separated from the reality on the ground for our underpaid, overworked soldiers. They should be kept as comfortable as possible so in the event of chaos they can keep their troops in line and on the same team. You start attacking these guys with your BS class warfare nonsense and pretty soon they will start sympathizing with the common man, which will make the coup much easier. Go gripe about your corporate overlords and spend some time addressing the real issues in this country instead of going after our officers.

  12. You will not see this kind of article on the high incomes and lavish lifestyle of mega-millionaire rock stars and Hollyweird movie stars. Most of them are liberals and they have done much to change the culture that helps get socialist politicians elected. The enemy for the marxists has always been businessmen and the American military. So that’s why articles like this get written and published.

  13. George Salt says:

    That’s the wonderful thing about the Internet — we can all be whatever we want to be.

    Next you’ll tell us that you are a former Obama supporter who now supports …

  14. You will never see this kinds of articles going after the high incomes and lavish lifestyles of doped up rock stars and Hollyweird movie stars. The Left only goes after businessmen and in this case, high ranking military officers.

  15. Dodge Kramer says:

    This garbage op-ed piece doesn’t reveal anything we already didn’t know about our top military brass, it reveals the author has absolutely no understanding of being a military general. “They each have a C-40…some of which are configured with beds” Should our generals be standing up during their repeated 12 hour flights between washington and distant warzones?

  16. chernobylgoo says:

    Tons of money huh. The base salary for a 1 star general is $11726 a
    month maxed out(140K per year). The base salary for a 4 star general is
    $19240 a month maxed out(230K per year). By maxed out I mean after
    achieving that rank and having at least 20 years of service, usually its
    more like 30-35yrs. What is the maximum salary for a CEO (a parallel type of position to a general)? 1+ million plus stock options? More? How long have they been with that company? 5 years? 10 years? When you look at what the military pays compared to
    what a regular civilian makes doing the same job you find that the
    civilian has a much better deal. They can sleep at home most nights in a
    comfortable bed in a quiet neighborhood and feel safe at all times. A
    military general sleeps on his jet while flying to a base that he’s
    about to take over or sleeps in a 12×12 room that may or may nor have
    AC/electricity/water in the middle of a desert. He probably got woken up
    by the sirens announcing that the base had incoming rockets or mortars
    and wondering idly if they might hit his building or just kill some of
    his soldiers. Oh and if it does hit and/or kill some of his soldiers
    he’s going to be writing the letter to the family explaining that their
    son/daughter/husband/wife/mom/dad was in the wrong place at the wrong
    time and was injured or killed. But hey at least they died for their
    country right?! He’ll be the one to hand the flag over at the funeral to
    the family member hating him and the military in general for taking
    away their loved one. I’m sure the CEO has to deal with that type of
    stress right? No!? Well at least there are probably less CEOs then
    generals so it all equals out in the end right? No!? Hmmm… well
    maybe… shit I can’t think of any more reasons why a CEO would be a
    worse job and therefore needs to be paid more. As a veteran I’ve seen
    what a commander goes through in these situations. I’ve seen the pain as
    they steel themselves to take the burden of command. Yes they are
    compensated for their service and for the amount of responsibility that
    sits on their shoulders. I don’t think they are paid too much. I’d
    happily pay them more if I could. For all the ones who land the nice
    cushy “adviser” jobs after they leave the service there are more who are
    damaged beyond repair that sit in their homes and live off of that
    retirement check that you are thinking is “too much”. The military takes
    lives and uses them up. Most don’t make it out whole. Officers and
    enlisted don’t join or stay in the military to get rich, they do it
    because they want to defend their country. Yes there are other reasons
    but no one goes into the military just because of the
    money/travel/benefits. It’s always a mix but there is always one thing
    that is on the list. That reason is they want to serve and defend the
    country that has offered them so much. How about you lead this fight against these CEOs that take a company and destroy it and then get a multimillion dollar settlement deal. That’s where I see excess in America right now. Not in the military.

  17. George Salt says:

    Unfortunately, your “best and brightest” are nothing more than the sort neurotic overachiever that West Point and the other service academies routinely turn out. Even worse, they believe all the self-serving bullshit they were spoon fed at the service academies.

  18. George Salt says:

    Really? Exactly who are they defending me from? Guys armed with box cutters?

    To paraphrase Muhammad Ali – no Taliban ever called a moocher.

  19. gimlisonofgloin says:

    no one person is better than another. Just because you’ve been strapped with an m16, trained and shipped off to see war and death does not make you better than another individual. Everyone has given a portion of their lives to serve the state. Hell, the majority of ALL of our lives are to serve the state. I agree the article does not factor in many key aspects of the benefits of military life, but do not disregard humanity in your vain attempt to bolster the ego of the military.

  20. gimlisonofgloin says:

    It seems a shame that your beautiful sentiment had to be shot down by ignorance.

  21. gimlisonofgloin says:

    well, if you’ve never studied politics, you should never speak about it.

  22. chernobylgoo says:

    An officer doesn’t make it to the higher ranks without some combat experience. Most generals started as spec ops or fighter pilots. Yes there are hundreds of generals. How many CEO’s are there? Thousands? What does a CEO make? 1+million a year plus stock options/benefits? What does the highest general make? $240K a year plus benefits? What type of retirement package is offered to CEOs? 5 million or more? How about a general? 120K a year plus medical. Now what does a CEO need to do his job? A nice car with a driver, a jet to take him to meetings, a house where “Pedro” does the lawns and “Marcia” cleans the inside, an expense account that will pay for thousands in dinners and lunches? What does a general need to do his job? A jet to fly him from base to base to take care of his duties, a house to live in (it’s nice but he cuts the yard and his kids or wife cleans the inside), a car or more likely a Humvee to take him and his personal assistant around base (if he wants to go anywhere else he can use his own car). Being a general is not a good thing. Yes you get paid decently but if you screw up people die and when people die on your watch you have to take care of the families. Show me one CEO who went to a workers funeral and gave a heartfelt apology to the family because he failed at keeping their loved one alive. Have you served? Have you been shot at and watched buddies die? Have you seen the price of serving on the family that you have to leave behind? Once you have then you can choose whether or not a military member receives the right amount of benefits. Once you’ve seen an officer crack under the pressure of his or her duties then you can tell me what that’s worth. Until then try to respect that individuals choose to go to war because their country asks them to. They choose to defend you so you can have the type of life you want. Thank them for that in what ever way you want but you should thank them no matter what.

  23. Stev84 says:

    They still do when they retire. Go corporate and use their military contacts.

  24. Kelsey says:

    I’m also a child of a 2 star general, and find this article to be ridiculous.

    the so called ‘perks’ are, as mrmajestyk said, required for the job. Having an aide make your schedule is not ridiculous when your schedule includes 4 days of international travel, and a slew of meetings and appointments every week.
    These men, who are operating on the level of CEO’s, but are responsible for our country instead of our corporations, could be making triple the amount in the private sector, and experience real ‘perks’ that extend beyond the necessary if they were to leave the military. They choose instead to devote themselves to their country.

    This article is dolefully under researched, under developed and exaggerated.

  25. anon says:

    My father was a 2 star general and I too found this article greatly exaggerated. I also remember doing all the yard work… The only yard workers you would ever see were the guys maintaining the landscaping on and around the military base… they never did our house, or anyone else’s for that matter…

  26. “Globalization… has done more to protect us than our military ever has” !!!! Wow I really had to think about his one, my first thoughts were you are nothing but a total loon but then I just decided to do a simple comparison to see how many times your precious “Globalization” has died protecting you…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Sorry your super hero “Globalization Man” comes up in no research or the infamous google search… But I did find some articles saying how Globalization has been the leading cause in genocidal moments. I mean if country’s never wanted to expand their influence/trading or what you call “Globalization” then we would have no need to kill off the local populous of that territory.. Sorry Try Again!!

  27. skelton says:

    “You’re a vet just like me.”

    Yet you say something like this:

    ” That’s just something we say to help you not feel like less of a man for not answering the call to defend your country.”

    I’ve NEVER heard a vet talk like that.

  28. The day you woke up and believed you to be someones BOSS was the moment you screwed up… I have an idea lets make the military so horrible no sensible minded person would dare stay in long enough to gain such rank and so called “luxury”. We already tried the inexperienced idea in Washington lets see how that works on the battlefield. IF YOU HAVE NEVER SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES YOU SHOULD NEVER SPEAK ABOUT MATTERS OF MILITARY…

  29. worfington says:

    First, we should drop the feel good, smiley face euphemism “Department of Defense” and call it what it is – the Department of War. Then we need to slash its budget by 75%.

  30. Weedlord Bonerhitler says:

    Quit chafing about their perks. Many of them risked life and limb to protect your sorry butts.

  31. Mark Catan says:

    On the other hand, paying people well so they will stay inside the government reduces the risk of their being tempted by corporate influence (such as in approve my crappy bomb project and when you leave the job, you’ll have a cushy one overseeing the crappy bomb project). Maybe the government should also pay senators and congressmen handsomely and kill private campaign financing, so they’ll do their jobs. Might cost the country a lot less due the removal of the distortions caused by manipulative private interests. I’m no economist but there is a complex issue.

  32. Regalme says:

    Wow. The amount of arrogance you just displayed is astounding. You literally just insulted the person and idea you “swore” to protect. But I get it. Let’s not pretend that everyone signs up for the military to protect their country. Nationalism, patriotism, whatever. Some people want brotherhood, some money, acclaim, a chance to escape, their last chance. The people who apply for the military are just that… people. They don’t suddenly become magical beings deserving of more than the rest of the human race.

    Have you risked your life for your country? How about all the coal miners who work in deplorable conditions to bring fuel to the rest of the world, including every vehicle the military owns. Or perhaps we should thank the farmer who provides you with food to survive every day. Food without which, you die.

    How do others serve? How about the social worker who finds abandoned children on the streets and finds them a home. The doctor who will save your life someday when you get “shot in the chest” (someone get a medal).

    Globalization of our culture has done more to protect us than our military ever has. Our once greatest enemy (Britain) finds comfortable ties with us economically and socially. After destroying two of their cities Japan welcomed our technology and entertainment. Inserting American themes into their own media. China is manufactors many of our products and

  33. nicho says:

    Glad to see that the Pentagon Apologist Rapid Response Team was poised and ready to hit the keyboards at the first hint of criticism of the wretched excesses of the Imperial Officer Corps.

  34. Locke says:

    Unfortunately, the Peter Principle suggests we’ll always have at least some people at every level of an organization that don’t really have the talent to be working there. Best we can do about it is constantly remind ourselves of our expectations and enforce the standards we set at each level.

  35. Locke says:

    I don’t get it. Flag officers have always had it nice. This is news to you? Even if it is, at least get this much straight: they are better than you. Few servicemen are heroes and some are even villainous, but each of them is better than any citizen who has never volunteered a portion of their life to serve the state. If you want to bemoan the excesses of our general officers, go right ahead, but don’t attack the “political/military class” over the benefits afforded to our servicemen and women (free healthcare and one of the few remaining pension systems in this country).

  36. nowaRINO says:

    Thank you for proving my point.

  37. Nelson says:

    Honestly, if they’re the best of the best and actually are top tier talent, I don’t mind the luxuries as good leaders are hard to come by. The problem is when those same luxuries are given to those without commensurate talent.

  38. Ginger_FL says:

    The officer corp has always been elite while the enlisted corp has been the lower classes. Example: Col. Carp (base commander George AFB before it closed in 1992) was under investigation because his wife was using the base credit card at sears and other stores downtown to purchase items for herself. She also had the base carpenter install a custom built kitchen, doors, trim etc. before they moved in even though the house had just be remodeled a year earlier. Nothing ever came of the investigation because Desert storm kicked off and all of a sudden Col. Carp was molded into some sort of hero…until he made a racial slur towards some of the dirt boys…..but he was able to go on with his career. Our base had a wonderful golf course so we had generals fly in for “inspections” all the time on their jets so they could go golfing…those of us enlisted had to stop work and go around doing base clean up to make sure the place was spotless for these visits. The officer housing is top notch as well, always has been while our enlished housing was so old, most of it was condemned after the base closed.

  39. Ben Kline says:

    No, they don’t make that much. Google 2012 Army basic officers pay. The maximum base pay for the highest rank an officer in the Army can achieve is $228000 a year. That is the pay that the next George MacArthur would receive. Currently (omitting the cost of living allowance) the base pay for the highest ranking general in the Army is $210,000. I don’t understand this animosity. This is the pay of an individual in charge of over 1.1 million people.

    How much do you think these people would make on Wall Street?

  40. Ben Kline says:

    According to Wikipedia the United States has ~1.5 million personnel in the five basic branches of service. Also, according to Wikipedia Walmart employ’s ~2.2 million. According to the current Fortune 500 list Walmart is listed as the second largest corporation in America.

    If you want to win wars you need intelligent, capable, die hard’s who can think critically and apply themselves with robust quality. Unfortunately these kinds of people have another trait: they are desirable. However, there is a rule in the Army: no one, general or soldier, may make more money per year than the Sergeant Major of the Army. The last time I looked at the pay and earning statement I believe that cap is somewhere around ~$160,000.

    If you want retention you have to have benefits, plain and simple. However it needs to be balanced.
    So lets make a statement about what/who we want in control: individuals who meet the above specifications but are not bound by the desire to simply achieve rank/power. Rather, individuals who desire higher level leadership because they truly love the system are the aim.

    These perks, lavish and wonderful are just a mean’s of making up for that which is sacrificed.

  41. mrmajestyk says:

    Having worked for a four star general I can tell you that most of this is either exagerrated or utter nonsense. There are security concerns, scheduling and transportation needs that have to be fulfilled. Would you expect that a General be responsible for that on his own? Most of these “perks” are just part of the job. And you’re right, many of them could make MUCH more in the private sector. Which makes their 25-30 years of service that much more admirable.

  42. ruger11 says:

    The problem is that many Generals think that these perks come with just “Being a General” and we confuse all generals with those few that actually need or require such perks. A great example is Adm. Stavridis who, in his position in Europe needs a plane capable of flying him and his staff anywhere in Europe, Africa or the Middle East, needs a staff to handle the multitude of countries with whom he deals, and needs to be able to wine and dine with foreign generals who enjoy similar and even more grandiose perks. Another example are the top generals in our military branches, who spend time in meetings, testifying before congress, traveling to bases around the world and visiting their counterparts in countries around the globe. Of course they should have someone planning their schedule and have their air transport provided. But contrast these examples with generals who DON’T need them, and the disparity becomes more clear. The article hits a good point but fails to differentiate between the multitude of generals we have that try and live lavish lifestyles because they can, and the smaller cadre of Generals and Admirals that actually do need and should be provided with such a support mechanism and staff.

  43. Stev84 says:

    Plenty of them have never seen any combat. You can become a general and spend your entire career in an office.

    They are already compensated with tons of money. If they need luxury, they can easily afford it.

  44. Stev84 says:

    They are merely used to it to because that’s what they’ve seen above them when they were lower ranked. Then they got promoted and followed the same examples they’ve seen their whole career..

    The problem here is that they also get paid a lot. If they need people to help them around the house they have more than enough money to pay for it on the civilian market. They don’t need poor enlisted to do chores for them. If they want a luxury room in a hotel, they have the money to pay for it. They don’t need to bill the DoD.

  45. Indigo says:

    Alors, c’est Le Scandal Petraeus, n’est-ce pas?

  46. Wellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllfare for the wellllllllllllllllllllllllllthy? Wellllllllllllllllllllllllllll, yes! — the god Ronald Reagan. The famous words go with: I can increase military spending (welfare for the wealthy), cut taxes (on the wealthy), and still balance the budget (not! balloon deficits and pass the cost onto futural generations).

  47. johnnuke says:

    …”Ike would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the lifestyle of today’s generals.”

    Ike also had a personal driver…whom he had an affair with. Nice try though.

  48. j says:

    You’ve seen a General in a social setting? How are you quantifying your “love for your country”? General Petraeus has seen most of 33 years in the military overseas in combat overseeing millions of soldiers. While rewriting US military doctrine that will be followed for decades, he was shot in the chest, overcame cancer, and earned a PhD. I would venture to say that his dedication to our country will surpass anything you could ever do with 10 lifetimes. And you ask why he needs those things; a plane, a staff, people to help him perform his duties…? Because the decisions he makes affect millions of people. The US Army is one of the the largest corporations in the world and he didn’t just “get there” by knowing people or by being the heir to the CEO. He started from the bottom like everyone else and worked his way to the top.

    But you probably won’t care and just focus on the fact that he banged some woman that wasn’t his wife. Just like the media to destroy the best and brightest of our country.

    But it’s ok, because I know you’ve served, right? You’re a vet just like me. And trust me, there is no way that you’re my “civilian boss”. That’s just something we say to help you not feel like less of a man for not answering the call to defend your country. I’m sure you love your country on paper and that’s all that counts.

  49. nowaRINO says:

    “if we are not willing to pay top dollar…”
    If I am paying you, stop acting like you are better than I. Stop acting like you love this country more than I and stop acting like I, your civilian boss, should open the door for you when we see each other socially.

  50. ArrowInTheMyst says:

    Do you have any idea what these men and women go theough to arrive at the top 1%? How many times have CEO’s been shot or blown up or deployed to war zones for years on end? What nightmares keep these CEO’s up late at night while their wife and kids sleep? These men and women have earned this by proving themselves in combat and honestly if we are not willing to pay top dollar for the best when it comes to our military then what is the point?

  51. Rufus says:

    Looks like Ms. Broadwell kicked a hornet’s nest.

  52. Judeling says:

    There is one big difference between our military elite and the rest. They all had to pay their dues. All our
    generals were at one time lieutenants and captains. Whatever sense of entitlement they may feel today to a large extent they actually earned it. Don’t think for a minute that the E7,8 and 9’s do not exert their influence in the promotion process. An ass-kisser may get a bird or even rarely a star but that is the ceiling. The basic protection of the institution really prevents much more then that. Generals have all of the human failings and biases, they have all of the normal tendencies towards ambition and empire building that people in power exhibit. But in my experience they tend to be the portion of the power elite who actually can lay claim to the perks of position within the limits of that narrow competency.

  53. Fred Reese says:

    Ike would be mad as hell if he saw the current generals in their lifestyles. He is rolling in his grave. Both rolling in the grave and seeing generals live large above ground in the same sentence leaves me with a weird feeling.

  54. UncleBucky says:

    While it’s no surprise, this shit has to stop.

  55. Fifi says:

    The problem with those perks goes far beyond their gross unfairness or the sense of self-entitlement they promote. The number 1 problem is who is attracted to those perks: “thrivers”, “top achievers”, careerists, the vainest, shallowest, most relentless self-promoters around. Those are the very ones you don’t want in leadership positions. Worse, those with the sharpest elbows and the best ass-kissing skills push aside the good candidates, the real innovators who are too busy making an actual difference to play the kiss-up/kick-down game.

    The problem is all the more acute within the military because outside recruitment is not an option for generals. If “thrivers” are allowed to monopolize the top positions, their attitudes at the top percolate down the hierarchy through grading, ranking and promotions for younger officers to select for the same kind of worthless ‘leaders’. And it takes more than 20 years to make a general. So 20 years later, you find the same kind of characters filling the top ranks and it becomes impossible to change this kind of culture, until an institution-wide disaster forces a radical change in leadership.

    If you want competent, level-headed leadership, you need to lower the stakes and the incentives so that getting a promotion and holding a position doesn’t become a make or die moment for your present and future lifestyle but simply the opportunity to try your hand on broader responsibilities. Otherwise, you get the “leaders” you don’t want.

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