Wasteful spending: America has 963 generals and admirals whose lavish perks cost us billions

All patriotic Americans recognize that military readiness requires the leadership and talents of a certain number of generals and admirals in the various branches of the armed forces.

But few Americans realize that the ranks of these brass hats has grown far beyond any realistic need and represents the waste of a lot of money.

Consider THIS:

The David Petraeus scandal has shined a light on the luxurious, subsidized lifestyle of the U.S. military’s top generals. But so far, what the media has uncovered only scratches the surface of the abuses…

The reality… is that there are  nearly 1,000 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces, and each has an entourage that would make a Hollywood star jealous.

According to 2010 Pentagon reports, there are 963 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces. This number has ballooned by about 100 officers since 9/11 when fighting terror — and polishing the boots of senior military personnel — became Washington’s No. 1 priority. (In roughly that same time frame, starting in 1998, the Pentagon’s budget also ballooned by more than 50 percent.)

Jack Jacobs, a retired U.S. army colonel and now a military analyst for MSNBC, says the military needs only a third of that number. Many of these generals are “spending time writing plans and defending plans with Congress, and trying to get the money,” he explained. In other words, a large number of these generals are essentially lobbyists for the Pentagon, but they still receive large personal staffs and private jet rides for official paper-pushing military matters.


[E]ach top commander has his own C-40 jet, complete with beds on board. Many have chefs who deserve their own four-star restaurants. The generals’ personal staff include drivers, security guards, secretaries and people to shine their shoes and iron their uniforms. When traveling, they can be accompanied by police motorcades that stretch for blocks. When entertaining, string quartets are available at a snap of the fingers…

[S]imply the staff provided to top generals and admirals can top $1 million — per general. That’s not even including their own salaries — which are relatively modest due to congressional legislation — and the free housing, which has been described as “palatial.” On Capitol Hill, these cadres of assistants are called the generals’ “flotillas.”

In Petraeus’ case, he didn’t want to give up the perks of being a four-star general in the Army, even after he left the armed forces to be director of the CIA. He apparently trained his assistants to pass him water bottles at timed intervals on his now-infamous 6-minute mile runs. He also liked “fresh, sliced pineapple” before going to bed…

Despite the seemingly limitless perks of being a general, there is a limit to the military’s (taxpayer-funded) generosity. That’s led some senior officers to engage in a little creative accounting. This summer the (formerly) four-star general William “Kip” Ward was caught using military money to pay for a Bermuda vacation and using military cars and drivers to take his wife on shopping and spa excursions. He traveled with up to 13 staff members, even on non-work trips, billing the State Department for their hotel and travel costs, as well as his family’s stays at luxury hotels.


While the exorbitant costs of private planes and hundreds of golf courses may seem bad enough, the most costly problem with the entitlement culture of the military happens after generals retire. Since they’re so used to the luxurious lifestyle, the vast majority of pension-reaping high-ranking officers head into the private defense industry.

According to William Hartung, a defense analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., about 70 percent of recently retired three- and four-star generals went straight to work for industry giants like Lockheed Martin.



  1. Craig Knauss

    When I was in DoD we called them LSD commanders. LSD = Large Steel Desk. Not really very accurate since any general officer would rather die than have a steel desk. (It had to be mahogany.) Most were only doing paperwork and playing golf. Since we don’t have any major wars going on, with the need to keep the bench stocked with general officers (due to “attrition”), there is no need for nearly that many. They are about as necessary as Mitt’s 320 ship Navy.

  2. No entourage outweighs that of the Commander in Chief.

    This topic is a perfect example of government excess and just how easy it is to spend other people’s money.

  3. doc: There’s only one commander-in-chief, and he requires lots of security, considering that four of his predecessors were assassinated and five others were shot at.

    Moreover, he frequently has to travel among the populace. The American people expect that of their presidents. He can’t just hole up in the White House for four years.

    The 963 generals and admirals don’t deserve to live like sultans at public expense.

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