Kenneth Braithwaite, the navy secretary under President Donald Trump, spent more than $2.3 million on air travel for the approximately eight moths he was in office.
Braithwaite served as the Navy’s most senior civilian from May 29 until Joe Biden took office on Jan. 21. During that time, Braithwaite embarked on 22 foreign and domestic trips – more than any other senior Pentagon civilian, USA Today reported.
The navy secretary was traveling even as other Defense Department officials stayed grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He defended his journeys, saying they were necessary to bolster the Navy.
‘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 to USA Today in an email. ‘I submit it’s impossible to lead men and women deployed around the world from behind a desk in Washington.’
Kenneth Braithwaite, the navy secretary under President Donald Trump, spent more than $2.3 million on air travel for the approximately eight moths he was in office – above he visits Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Elizabeth at sea off the coast of Flamborough, United Kingdom, on October 1, 2020
His domestic trips included the Army-Navy annual football game; above Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite, left, speaks with Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of the Navy, Gregory Slavonic during the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 12, 2020
Braithwaite speaks with Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander and Dr. Scott Bailey, 30th SW historian, on Dec. 8, 2020, after arriving at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to meet with 30th Space Wing leadership
Braithwaite’s international trips included Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India.
His domestic travels included more than $24,000 to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family and more than one visit to Hawaii.
Over the same period, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took 15 trips. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took four trips.
Former President Donald Trump nominated Braithwaite for Navy secretary on November 24, 2019, after acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned. He was confirmed by the Senate on May 21 and took the oath of office on May 29, 2020.
One of Braithwaite’s trip that stood out was the $232,000 he spent the week before Biden’s inauguration to fly to Wake Island, a tiny Pacific stop where no sailors or Marines are stationed.
The Air Force, not the Navy, controls Wake Atoll, a string of islands generally not accessible to civilians. Navy F-18 pilots use the strip and ranges nearby for training and refueling stops.
He recorded his farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps on Wake Island, appearing in a flight jacket on a gravelly beach with the water in the background.
Danielle Brian, the executive director of the government watchdog Project On Government Oversight, said the trip was ‘an expensive abuse of power.’
In January Secretary Braithwaite spent $232,000 to fly to Wake Island to record his farewell address to the Navy – above a still from his recorded speech
Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite with Cdr. Phillip Sylvia aboard USS Hampton (SSN 767) in his first trip to San Diego as secretary on July 27, 2020
Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite renders honors as he passes through sideboys upon arrival aboard USS Gerald R. Ford on June 11, 2020
Former President Donald Trump nominated Braithwaite for Navy secretary on November 24, 2019 and Braithwaite was confirmed by the Senate in May
Additionally, for his travels, Braithwaite asked for and received a waiver from a 2018 Pentagon policy for ethical use of military aircraft that cracked down on the use of multiple crews and planes in order to ‘be peerless stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.’
For his January trip to Wake, he took off from Joint Base Andrews and arrived in Hawaii. From there, he boarded a separate plane with a new crew for the flight to Wake Island.
In his waiver, he wrote that using two planes and crews would ensure he would be back at the Pentagon for a full day of work on Jan. 15 where he was helping with the transition to the Biden administration.
Braithwaite graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 and served as a naval aviator. He left active duty in 1993 as a one-star rear admiral and continued his service in the Navy Reserve. He previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway.