The Air Force is conducting a review of its international travel policies after a crew stayed at a resort owned by President Donald Trump, prompting an inquiry by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“Air Force leadership directed Air Mobility Command to review all guidance pertaining to selection of airports and lodging accommodations during international travels … While initial reviews indicate that air crew transiting through Scotland adhered to all guidance and procedures, we understand that U.S. Service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even if within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable,” Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, the Air Force’s top spokesman, said in a statement to The Epoch Times.
“Therefore, we are reviewing all associated guidance. Even when USAF aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be created through the appearance of air crew staying at such locations.”
The probe was launched after criticism of the Air Force for using Glasgow Prestwick Airport for refueling stops and layovers, and the stay of seven crew members at Trump’s nearby Turnberry golf course and resort in March.
The Air Force stated that the Trump property, at $136 a night, was less expensive than the Marriott property nearby, which would have been $161 a night. Both were under the per diem rate of $166.
Trump responded to the situation on Sept. 9, writing on Twitter: “I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.”
I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2019
According to federal spending records, the Defense Logistics Agency spent some $11 million at the airport since October 2017, the House committee stated in a letter (pdf) to the Department of Defense earlier this year requesting records relating to the spending. The committee said the spending and a report that the airport provided low-priced rooms and offered free rounds of golf at the resort “raise questions about the president’s potential receipt … of emoluments in violation of the U.S Constitution and raise other serious conflict-of-interest concerns.”
The records were requested to be submitted by July 8.
A senior Democratic committee aide told The Epoch Times that the Department of Defense has not given any documents to the committee as of yet and that lawmakers are mulling their next steps if the Pentagon doesn’t start producing documents.
The aide also said that the committee is investigating some of the Air Force incidents.
A Department of Defense spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email, “As with all congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to the authors.”
The Air Force, meanwhile, stated that Prestwick Airport has increasingly been leveraged as a stopover since 2015 because of its 24-hour-a-day operations, a large parking area, and agreeing to deliver fuel at standardized prices.
The U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility issued a directive in June 2017 to shift routing locations to try to increase efficiency, which led to further usage of Prestwick.
Since 2015, the command’s aircraft has stopped at the airport 936 times, including 659 overnight stays. The 259 stops and 220 overnight stays so far this year are already the highest in each category.
Thomas said that the first option for lodging is on a military installation, but many times, that’s not available because it’s full.
“In these instances when military billeting is unavailable, to include circumstances when aircrews are transiting civil airfields, our policies guide the air crews to stay at available locations which limit expense by remaining at or under the DoD maximum allowable rate, are suitable (for example, aircrew require lodging with ‘black-out’ blinds in their rooms to allow for adequate rest during day-time hours if mission timing requires), and are reasonably close to the civil airfield in order to limit transit time,” he said.
“In some cases, these lodging options are at locations which could be considered ‘higher-end’ hotels; existing policy is that as long as the location is suitable and within the allowable DoD rate, air crews may stay at a ‘higher-end’ hotel.”