Casa Sur is a five-bedroom residence in Coral Gables, Florida which the Pentagon leases for $106,000 per year, and where the head of the U.S. Southern Command, General John Kelly, will live rent-free once renovations are completed.
With all the security and communications that go with being a top commander, the Pentagon estimates Sur Casa will cost $3.2 million over 25 years.
General Kelly is a respected combat commander who lost his own son in Afghanistan. But that house will be hard to explain to Matt Thompson, a military mechanic forced to take a 20 percent pay cut this year.
“That’s huge. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to make that work,” he says.
The Pentagon studied what it pays for 32 homes for senior officers around the world and found that 22 of them could either be reduced in cost or replaced.
A Navy Rear Admiral lives in a 6,600 square-foot Italian villa in Naples while the Air Force general commanding NATO lives in a 15,000 square foot chateau in Belgium.
The alternative would be to give them a housing allowance and let them find their own place to live.
Officials say that is impractical because of security concerns and the need to entertain visiting dignitaries.
Still, Congress has criticized the excessive cost of some of the homes even though Defense Secretary Hagel told furloughed workers he couldn’t figure out any other way to cut the budget.
Cutting back on the housing would not save as much money as the furloughs do. But some people say appearances count – and this may not look the best for the Pentagon.