Mansions for military's top brass are under scrutiny in time of cuts

2013-07-22T00:00:00Z Mansions for military's top brass are under scrutiny in time of cutsDavid S. Cloud Tribune Washington Bureau Arizona Daily Star

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortresslike headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area's swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The cost to the government? $160,000 a year, plus $402,000 for renovations and security improvements now underway.

Casa Sur is one of hundreds of high-end homes, villas and mansions where senior generals and admirals are billeted, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force four-star who commands NATO, gets a 15,000-square-foot, 19th century chateau in Belgium. Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, head of Marine Forces Reserve, enjoys a 19th century plantation house in New Orleans listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and their deputies inhabit historic quarters in and around Washington - all staffed with chefs, drivers, gardeners and security teams.

The perks for top military brass, a Pentagon tradition, are under increasing scrutiny in Congress at a time when budget reductions and the mandatory spending cuts known as the sequester have forced the Pentagon to cut services, close facilities, cancel training and missions, and furlough 680,000 civilian workers.

Generals and admirals say they need large houses with high security - as well as cooks and gardeners - because they often host visiting dignitaries or preside at ceremonial events.

Keeping pricey properties makes fiscal sense, they argue, because the Pentagon either already owns them or would waste money finding a suitable rental every time a senior officer is moved to a new command.

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