In the 2 September 2011 Los Angeles Times there’s an article titled: Panetta’s commute raises eyebrows. The gist of the story is that many Washingtonians are shocked, shocked that the Secretary of Defense could even consider boarding a U.S. Air Force jet to fly home to California for a three-day weekend. Almost every weekend. Never mind that Panetta’s ranch in the Carmel Valley is fully equipped with the telecommunications technology to allow him to keep in constant touch with the Pentagon 24-7.
What memories this situation arouses in me. Flash back to the mid-1960s when I was still a “rocket scientist” engaged in some highly classified research for the Air Force. In Los Angeles. One afternoon I got a call to brief the Undersecretary of the Air Force at 9:30 the next morning. In the Pentagon. One does not refuse such a request so I dutifully boarded the “redeye” to Washington, arriving the next morning at about 6:30 AM. Upon arriving at the Pentagon I was told that the briefing had been postponed to 2:00 PM. At 1:00 P:M I was told the briefing was cancelled. So I climbed on the evening plane back to LA, never having briefed the Undersecretary. I thought: there must be an easier way.
A short time later I was told that there was a secure color TV link to the Pentagon in an office about 50 meters from my office in LA. Had I been a General I could have used that link instead of making that fruitless and expensive round trip to the Pentagon. To borrow a phrase from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town: “What a waste of money and time!”