Trump’s Navy secretary spent over $2M on travel during pandemic: report
Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite spent roughly $2.4 million on air travel during his eight-month tenure under the Trump administration, traveling to 22 destinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
USA TODAY reported that Braithwaite, who was sworn in last May and resigned when President Biden took office on January 21, traveled to more foreign and domestic locations than any other senior Pentagon civilian.
The trips took place even as the coronavirus pandemic limited travel for most senior officials to prevent the spread of the virus among service members, two Defense Department officials told USA Today.
Among Braithwaite’s trips was a $232,000 excursion in January to the South Pacific’s Wake Island to record a farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps.
The island is essentially a refueling stop and emergency landing strip thousands of miles from Hawaii where no sailors or Marines are stationed, Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey told the outlet.
Braithwaite also flew to Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India, as well as several trips to Hawaii and a more than $24,000 flight to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family.
Other service secretaries took fewer trips in the same period, with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy embarking on 17 trips that cost roughly $900,000 and then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveling to 19 destinations for a total $1.6 million, according to spokespeople from each service.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, meanwhile, took four trips in that time frame, and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took a combined 15 trips.
Braithwaite defended his travels in a statement to USA Today, claiming they were necessary to strengthen the Navy after recent crises, likely alluding to the scandal surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.
“I am extremely proud of the record of accomplishments of Our Sailors and Marines during my tenure as Secretary, especially following such a tumultuous chapter in the Navy’s recent history of crisis following crisis as compared to our other services,” Braithwaite wrote. “I submit it’s impossible to lead men and women deployed around the world from behind a desk in Washington.”
Braithwaite added that he believes his trips “left the Navy and the Marine Corps better positioned to respond to our nation’s defense today and tomorrow.”
Former President Trump nominated Braithwaite for Navy secretary after acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned over criticism of the service’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak aboard the Roosevelt. More than 1,000 sailors were infected aboard the ship, forcing it to be at port for two months in Guam.
Modly resigned on April 7 after fanning the flames of the controversy surrounding the outbreak.
Braithwaite, a retired admiral, had served as U.S. ambassador to Norway since 2018 before becoming Navy secretary