How has the Pentagon spent counterterrorism funds? The Washington Post reports on one project funded through the CT appropriation that will certainly help keep America safe from al-Qaeda — or at least keep Air Force commanders comfortable during an attack. The Luxury Pod, officially called “comfort capsules”, contain plush chairs and full-length mirrors, both apparently necessities for top brass who cannot abide flying Coach:
The Air Force’s top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on “comfort capsules” to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the capsules’ carpet and leather chairs, according to internal e-mails and budget documents.
Production of the first capsule — consisting of two sealed rooms that can fit into the fuselage of a large military aircraft — has already begun. …
The effort has been slowed, however, by congressional resistance to using counterterrorism funds for the project and by lengthy internal deliberations about a series of demands for modifications by Air Force generals. One request was that the color of the leather for the seats and seat belts in the mobile pallets be changed from brown to Air Force blue and that seat pockets be added; another was that the color of the table’s wood be darkened.
Changing the seat color and pockets alone was estimated in a March 12 internal document to cost at least $68,240.
How much does the Air Force want to complete the Luxury Pod project? Over $16 million in CT funds initially, although that has declined to $7 million. Congress told the Pentagon twice where to stick the Luxury Pods, and yet the Air Force continues to work on this project and continues to ask for funding out of war-related appropriations.
The Luxury Pod Project got its start with current AF vice chief of staff Gen. Duncan McNabb, who determined that the Air Force did not have enough VIP-level resources for flight after 9/11. Arguing that the war brought more need to fly brass and civilian decision-makers around the world, McNabb proposed spending millions of dollars adding such capacity to a fleet that already had 100 planes or more with VIP accommodations.
Perhaps the Luxury Pod has some sort of application for actual counterterrorist operations that we cannot yet discern. Maybe they’re meant to replace Gitmo as an interrogation capsule that would pass muster with Amnesty International. However, I’d prefer that counterterrorist funds get spent on actual counterterrorist operations, and not featherbedding the travel accommodations of VIPs and Air Force staff. God forbid we have another terrorist attack in this nation, but if we do, I don’t want to have to wonder whether a stuffed chair on a pallet took priority over discovering whether that terrorist cell existed.
Update: Oh, no! Not … the comfy chair!