Over the past month, the Air Force’s lodging bureaucracy has come under scrutiny for its policies and procedures, many of which are at odds with Federal travel regulations. Time and again, it is revealed that officials are placing unlawful constraints on the lodging options of airmen, and that finance offices are abetting these shenanigans by denying reimbursement for duly authorized and properly accrued lodging expenses. This often leaves airmen holding the bag for hundreds or thousands of dollars in expenses accumulated while traveling on direct orders and following the rules.
But even after having its pants pulled down at a moment when CSAF is trying desperately to persuade airmen that the service has their best interests at heart, the Air Force continues to defy its own stated principles as well as the laws of the land, all in the name of propping up a decrepit second-rate chain of roach motels that should have been converted to minimum security prisons long ago.
By way of review, here’s what the Joint Travel Regulation — a binding article of Federal law — says about the right of airmen to choose their own lodging location:
“A member … should use adequate and available Govt. Qtrs on the U.S. installation at which assigned TDY. [A member] … who uses other lodgings as a personal choice is limited to the Govt. Qtrs lodging reimbursement cost on the installation to which assigned TDY.”
In other words, if you choose to stay off base, you can’t spend more than it would cost per night to stay in billeting. This is our way of saying we don’t subsidize your relationship choices or personal preferences, and it is a reasonable limitation.
But here’s an excerpt from what airmen TDY to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are told (this is one of many examples provided to JQP in the last month):
In three different places, this document pronounces that “billeting determines lodging location.” A statement completely at odds with the law. It then issues coercive language to manufacture consent with the fake rule it propounds. The net impact is airmen being forced — or believing they are forced — to stay where they are directed by a cubicle-nested GS-9 or E-6 … rather than the facility best suited to their needs and preferences while traveling. The knock-on effect is that airmen are being told how to spend allowances granted them by the taxpayer, who is unwittingly propping up an enterprise that would almost certainly fail if it had to compete on the open market.
Why does this happen? Easy. Because Air Force Inns have a vested interest in making sure Air Force Inns control the choices of airmen. This is what allows billeting honchos to max out their optimum occupancy rates despite offering an inferior product — one that despite its inferiority, pays their salaries. Now consider that most base-level lodging managers are civil servants who are not subject to the UCMJ and therefore bear no meaningful risk for behaving unethically, and you begin to understand the issue even more. Now consider the fact that squadron commanders in the Services career field have an uphill climb to make O-6, and the picture gets even clearer. The only stakeholder who loses when Airman Smith is forced to stay in lodging is Airman Smith.
This is about good ‘ol fashioned corruption. What makes it especially concerning is how it uses the facade of official authority to countermand and subvert official authority. This is one of the earmarks of highly evolved and complex rackets that can only be ferreted out with federal prosecutions.
I think those prosecutions should happen. This is important. Here’s why, and it explains why I keep writing about this even though it is downplayed as trivial by the corrupt and their fascist mindguards.
Everyone in the Air Force goes TDY, so this impacts everyone. But more importantly, it typifies the spirit of lawlessness animating the Air Force’s descent into corruption. In the old days, the bureaucrats followed the rules and left the rule-breaking to those fighting wars … which are inherently fluid and dynamic enterprises that require the exercise of judgment and the occasional setting aside of arbitrary strictures.
These days, the Air Force has it exactly backwards. Bureaucrats engage in free-floating arbitrary rulemaking and warfighters are expected to obey the results without challenge. In a structure like this, functional authority trumps command. And this means shoe clerks … like those standing adjacent to obsolete fax machines in billeting offices … are happy to ignore CSAF’s mandate to stop harassing, henpecking, and generally screwing around with airmen, because he’s too physically and organizationall distant to directly threaten their interests.
Stuff like this is why airmen are packing up their gear and going to work for better companies, even if it means less money. They’re willing to accept a bit of extra aggravation to serve their country. But everything has a limit. The Air Force is testing those limits.