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Foreign Govts Fund Pentagon Trips

It may not be illegal, but it doesn't look good either: The Washington Post reports that Pentagon employees took 22,000 trips worth $26 million between 1998 and 2007—paid for by foreign countries, private companies, and other nongovernmental sources. A joint year-long ethics investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism uncovered the possible ethics breach. Defense officials say the trips were legal and in the case of foreign governments, customary—to refuse trips could have caused upsets with allies. The investigators charge that the trips created conflicts of interest that could distort Pentagon spending. The medical industry, for example, funded 8,700 trips worth $10 million for military medical personnel involved in drug purchasing decisions at the Pentagon. In one case, a senior official at the agency responsible for approving weapon sales to foreign governments took his wife on a $24,000 eight-day trip to Saudi Arabia, paid for by a Saudi prince who headed up the national guard, which purchased billions of dollars of weapons.