Jansing and Co | November 19, 2012
>>> petraeus has hired top washington lawyer robert barnett as the investigation continues into his career-ending affair. the scandal is revealed lavish details about the lifestyle of a four- star general . a 28-member police escort for instance and executive jets and palatial homes and gourmet chefs and security guards to carry are the bags and press the uniforms. and now the author of the book "the generals" said that being a four-star commander in a combat theatre is like being in a combination of bill gates and j jay-z. i am joined by colonel mark jacobs and the recipient of the congressional medal of honor . colonel, always good to see you.
>> good to see you, too.
>> and you have seen the reports written and how accurate are the descriptions?
>> well, probably pretty accurate about general petraeus , because this is the highest profile general officer we have, and the fact is that we have lots and lots of generals and admirals and my argument is that we have far too many and more than 1,000 i think for a force that is really, really small, and yeah, they get --
>> how much do we need?
>> well, one-third of that, and maybe 300 or so. we have a large number of them in the pentagon and a lot of them are spending time writing plans and defending plans with congress and trying to get the money, because that is a full-time exercise. i think that we can do that with k colonels or somebody like me for example.
>> and maybe call you back because of the surge shggestions here. and now, secretary gates is upset about this treatment of the four-star generals. there is something about a sense of entitlement and great power that skews people's judgment, and that what gates was saying about the dynamic or the power bubble around four-star generals, and do you buy that?
>> i do. it is not just in the military establishment , but it is true in business, and it is true everywhere. when you bring people, when they come up through the ranks, they sometimes forget where they were and it is very, very easy to justify in your own mind an exs excessive number and style of perk, because you have a great deal of responsibility. the fact of the matter is that people do forget and i don't think it is necessary.
>> and not necessarily in the military, but all walks of life.
>> yes, take a look at all of the major corporations in the united states . they also have planes and people who mow their lawns and all of the rest of that stuff.
>> and retired generals have defended this lifestyle to the " washington post " and wrote, many of them work 18-hour days and six to seven days a week and manage budgets that a dwarf those of large multinational companies and responsible for the lives of thousands, so they are basically running large corporations like fortune 500 ceos.
>> it is 100% true. you have somebody at the four four-star level can have hundreds of thousands of people working for them and enormous budgets and you are right, responsible for the lives of these people, and although they have a certain amount of money they are allowed to make, they are limited by law to something like $179,000. which is a lot of money, but nowhere near the compensation that one would expect for somebody with that kind of responsibili responsibility. so you have to look at both sides of it, but it is very easy, very easy to be jaded if you have everybody doing everything for you.
>> and secretary of defense gates said that he would like to trim some of these perks. does a secretary have that capability o? he called pit third rail of the defense department , and so is it untouchable?
>> i hope it is not. i think that one of the things we will realize in the budget problem that we have is that we will cut some of the stuff that costs us some money, and this may be one of them. but there are two things about that, the first is that to be honest with you, it is not a whole lot of money in the giant scheme of thing, and we waste lots more money on things that are less significant than things to make generals and admirals comfortable to be honest with you, and number two at the end of the day , it is not up to gates. it is not up to the president of the united states , it is up to the congress. we will see what the congress has to say. those are the people who actually decide.
>> and you are looking at hundreds of billions of dollars in that budget. now, some of the four-star benefits and i want to list a couple of them, $179 maximum salary, and that is where you start. but you get free housing and subsidies for food and uniforms as well, and that is part of it. when you look at that, does that lead to a sense of discon nnection though, because the salary is very, very low, but you have the perks on the side.
>> and all of those perks don't add up to a whole lot and actually in monetary terms and secondly, a lot of it is for the kinds of entertaining and the social events and diplomacy that you expect from the state department , and which also has budgets for this sort of thing. that having been said, yes, it is easy to get used to that, and get yourself a sense of entitlement and i will tell you a quick story, a friend of mine retire and this a lot of people have heard the story from other people as well. a friend of mine a high-ranking officer and general officer retires and he said jocularly that he realized he was retired from the army the morning after when he got out of bed and got himself cleaned up and went into the garage and sat in the left rear seat of the car and realized that there was nobody there to drive it. he was not kidding either, because it is easy to get used to the comfort and convenience.
>> thank you, sir. that is our msnbc military analyst colonel jack williams . thank you, sir.
>> thank you.