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Pentagon staff for a decade took trips worth millions of dollars which had been paid for by foreign governments and overseas companies doing business with the US Defense Department, according to a study released Wednesday.
From 1998-2007, sources outside the US government picked up the tab for more than 22,000 trips worth at least 26 million dollars, according to the study by the Center for Public Integrity.
During the 10-year time period, foreign governments spent more than 2.6 million dollars on about 1,500 trips.
US allies in the Asia-Pacific were among the top sponsors of the “freebies” including Australia, Singapore and Japan. But the list also includes China and Russia, the study found.
Among private sponsors, the medical industry was particularly generous, paying for more than 10 million dollars for military pharmacists, Pentagon doctors and others who play a role in the six billion dollars the Pentagon spends annually on prescription drugs.
Other private companies made the list such as Nike, Mattel and Sony.
“This is the kind of behavior that should be barred without a loop hole.” said Winslow Wheeler of the nonprofit Center for Defense Information.
A Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday defended the practice, saying it was authorized and carried out under a set of rules.
“These were events that these individuals vetted with their legal counsels to make sure that they were appropriate,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
“Travel regulations are designed, written to avoid a conflict of interest,” Whitman said.
“In all the cases that I’m aware of (the travel was) properly reviewed and approved,” he said.