Oil paintings in a sequestration era.

Oil paintings in a sequestration era.

It’s not like $41,200 is gonna break the Pentagon. But when U.S. military leaders are spending $41,200 for an oil painting at the same time the Pentagon is pausing tuition assistance programs, closing the commissaries for a day and canceling little league games on base, it’s going to stick in some craws.

The walls of the Pentagon are lined with these oil paintings of past military leaders. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has served as the service’s top civilian leader since 2008 and is set to step down.

Donley is certainly not the only federal leader to have his portrait done. Washington Times wrote the story back in November and it got a response, but it has recently gained momentum within military social media circles since the sequestration deadline hit. Troops have posted it on Twitter and Facebook using the cost of the oil paintings as an example of Pentagon bloat at a time when other programs are being cut.

It’s standard for the Air Force secretary to sit for an oil painting to join the others on the Air Force’s wing of the Pentagon. It just so happens that Donley is sitting for his painting while all other Defense Department civilians are getting ready to take a 22-day furlough.

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Boo hoo. Cry me a river.

This is just like the govt. to spend all this money for a useless oil painting when the govt is busy giving furloughs to families that need the money, cancelling daycare centers for needy families, etc, etc. The govt will take from the people that need and and as long as something does not affect them personally the govt does not care. The govt, I am sure they are not going to have any of their programs canacelled. They will continue to spend funding frivolesy on their trips, Di.bees, parties, etc. They have just given up on the middle class people.

Haven’t they heard of digital cameras and printing a poster sized image out and then framing it? Total cost: around $50… look at that, I just saved the tax payer $41,150.

Same with the Navy. They are shutting down carrier airwings, but have the money to create the The Navy Office of Hazing Prevention’s . The two accounts may be separate, nevertheless, it doesn’t inspire confidence in leadership.

It seems very clear military suffers from the exact same problem as our government as a whole. It’s connected unfortunately.

If a digital camera won’t do, surely they could find a painter willing to do the job for somewhat cheaper.

So much for the leadership setting the example. If furloughs come to pass, who among DOD’s leaders will voluntarily offer to take a 20% pay hit along with most of their civilian workforce? So far Ashton Carter has stepped up. Will anyone else?

Got “leadership”?

They don’t have any leadership, but you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting another General.

Make Donley pay for it out of his pocket, if he wants the oil painting so bad. This is ridiculous and should be stopped now.

The walls of the Pentagon would be empty if someone had to pay to have their portrait painted and displayed. Waste and Abuse my friends. $41,200? WOW

Aurora thanks for posting that bit about DepSecDef Carter. I hadn’t heard of that. I hope it has a snowball effect and other Americans, not just their leaders, step up! http://​www​.thedailybeast​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​2​0​1​3​/​0​2​/​28/

Are we sure that taxpayers truly pay for these paintings? I hope these would be donated.

So an oil painting is more important to the government then mine and thousands of other DOD employees? They have a real set of brass balls, don’t even blink an eye when it comes to a 22-day furlough but $41,200 oil painting…THAT’S top priority?!?!? My faith in the US is dwindling very fastly.

embarrrassing and aggregious

Sir, you are a true patriot.


Considering that at last count we had ONE general for every 600 soldiers (the worst, most bloated ratio in history), to say that the general staff is top-heavy is to be generous. And of course, that general has to have aides, a staff, a pile o’ perks, etc.

Even though the Army says its going to cut 200,000 soldiers (~10 full divisions, +/-), there isn’t any talk of retiring/shrinking the general staff.

Surely there thousands of artists and painters that would do it for far cheaper. And it would still look about the same with no one being able to tell a difference except for other painters.

Time to file a Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Corruption (FWAC) complaint. I wouldn’t mind if some non-government organization paid for it and donated it to the Pentagon, but I can’t believe our leaders would let taxpayers foot the bill. They are supposed to be good stewards of the resources that we give them.

How about we reduce about half of the flag officer ranks to begin with and we would naturally reduce the amount of oil paintings. I bet if they were a personal expense no one would be paying 41 grand for them. One way to start is to consolidate the Air Force back into Army Air Corps and you have already reduced untold amounts of flag officers. Reduce redundant recruiting and training pipelines (medical, MPs, mechanics, boot camps, clerical and band positions) AFSOC would then have added capabilities rather than three special units with a single function each but with the funding of our teir one JSOC units. The 160th SOAR would then fit right into a special operations wing. Stationary, awards, and uniforms being consistent would save millions.

Just as much as the painting are not of men fighting in battle but jerk wade Generals who cower here in there desks at home.

The subject of this painting has spent more years than many reading this have been alive serving his country and making contributions to our way of life and I am not bothered by this decision at all. Fire the artist and frame maker, let this man’s tenure pass unnoticed, busy the accounting office for a week, buy $10,000 worth of postage stamps, and send everyone subject to sequestration and furloughs a check for 50 cents… This seems to be the suggestion here. I understand “The principle of the thing”, but come on…

Sorry but there are only ten divisions in the active force at this time. The 200K that you mention are a combination of active and reserve but I really wonder how many divisions are actually going away.

its crap like this and the $100 hammer and crap like ICC GCV F-35 shows why the DoD is rain dead and unable to make smart decisions.

There might even be an active duty painter in the Air Force.

No, the message is that $41k is too much to spend.

that is right the brass don’t worry about all the little perks they get.… and they should shut down everything and not respond anything that threaten us// cancel all the black off projects and the skunk works stuff too.. of all the shut they can cancel for saving money is the stuff that they buy blind cause the salesman tell them it is the best and turns out to be garbage

Get rid of half the flag officers. All they do is fly around shaking hands and kissing babies. They are worthless. Plus their wives sit in 10,000 square foot houses with cooks and cleaning people. Get rid of them !!!
The Army has gotten out of control with their arrogance and ridiculous crap with Flag officers. All the services have.

SO, what do you expect? This is the kind of leadership WE (or someone) elected, not for the people, by the people? It’s not going to get any better until we say WE AN’T GONA TAKE IT ANY MORE.

These guys serve and served. Tomorrow or the next day, they are out of work. We owe them a painting. We owe them for making the decisions that are hard, not the easy ones. We support and salute the uniform. They have been where we have been. Wouldn’t trade my spot for theirs. Our opponents have always been downrange. Their opponents come from every side and strata and don’t wear uniforms.

On the other hand, Congress should have to take a 20% furlough instead of exempting themselves.



t.m.c. — Apparently HHT felt his ox wasn’t being gored. Great! For many other young people, especially those with families, times are and will be tough for them. Many Civil Service personnel will lose upwards of 10% of their annual salary. Many military and civilian workers will be required to absorb significant work load because positions/hours lost will not be back-filled. Recommend HHT and others review latest data concerning the 200% increase in civilian retirements in Feb. 2013. Suggest some common sense here HHT. The remark doesn’t seem to add a lot to the sensitive issue of priorities in spending. I suspect that the portrait was commissioned much before the rediculousness of the tsequestration was even anticipated to become a reality. We all buy the farm on this one. I do hope that the leadership understands that a review even to this relatively low level, compared to multi-million dollar weapon systems or contracts, should be conducted to present the image that “due diligence” will now be the order of the day. Issues are too important and feelings too raw to be dismissive.

even better, are the $250M to Egypt and assurance to Israel that their funding will not be cut!!!!! I guess foreign countries matter more than our own people.

I served for 22 years active duty, and now as a DoD civilian in sustainment on UAVs. Where do I go sit for my oil painting?

And to think part of America’s Revolution was to emancipate ourselves awat from European aristocratic rule..
Now it seems we have our own aristocratic lords in the form of these generals, sitting in the lap of luxury and strutting around on their high horses, only this time from a safe haven far removed from the actual fighting men and women they dictate over.


Why again do we “owe” these generals a $41,200 oil painting?

I am a Vietnam vet and have over 39 years of government service. Who cares , if he has put his life on the line for his country then he should have a picture. Look at the dollars we spend in fuel and man power to fly around pliticians and ther appointed friends has anyone tallyed up return on investment from that. If you look at the pomp and circumstance the military has, rember this they paid for there’s in blood.

I’ll Paint your portrait. Supply a photograph.

Bravo!! I have been saying the same thing for 2 years. God forbid that the most wasteful group, the Air Farce, be taken down to a truly functional status. This painting the GLARING example of waste by the Air Force for DECADES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is just a “taste” of the elitist attitude of the Air Force. What was it Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake”. That is called furlough!!

The listed price for both the hammer and ash-tray were much higher than $100. Long time ago, but I believe that the cost shown was $1200 for the ash-tray and $1800 for the hammer. These were not purchase prices of course…nor could or would any others ever be ordered; it is just that the system requires a price for everything. When you get through with all the procureed items and have burdened them with your overhead you end up with a few items left over and some funds left over. The normal method, rather than waste time (which IS expensive) is to simply divide the few remaining items into the remaining burdened cost. One project had 4–5 $1800 items, I think it was SGT York; and another about 3 — QUICKFIX IIB I believe. I know this sounds simplistic — but it is true. …some more meat for your conspiracy theory. F-35 is a fine plane, so was the F-22 when Clinton killed the first production run in 1993.

Actually DoD has canceled all training, seminars, and travel except what is mission critical. Those cut backs were started long before sequestration was a gleam in Congress’s eyes. Other measures have been taken to prevent the loss of jobs — certainly a worthy effort. Sequestration will severely and negatively impact all of us in any region — many would have to cancel employment of those they hire in the service sector, impacting many of the middle class. In other words this will act on the economy like a chain reaction — every job lost may mean 4 more jobs lost and then several more lost as those 4 lose employment. I honestly believe that jobs for the middle class would revive our economcy as they provide jobs for others — and the middle class can do that much faster than the Corporations and CEOs and have a much broader impact.

Sadly, YOU are part of the problem. You “JUST FOUND OUT THAT YOU HAVE A NEW CONGRESSMAN”. The election was in November with all the other 434 Congressmen and their term started in January. If you’re just finding out last week, then yo uhaven;t been paying attention.

I betcha the puzzle palace has a MilSpec for these paintings

Don’t lose faith in the US just in the current US goverment. How is it that the congress can take a 9 day break for a holiday when the country is about to fall apart?

And it’s just not one painting…there are hundreds of other oil paintings of past leaders…calulate each and everyone of those plus all the other paintings adorning the walls of our most senior leadership = $$$$!!!! These would bring millions in an auction.

Simply as a matter of policy, these oil paintings shouldn’t be done until AFTER you leave office. The photo of Dempsey’s painting is premature. We need to stop publicly funding them and only permit them if funded with donations.

I believe that they use bio-fuel for aircraft on carriers (Obama wanted it) at a cost of about $28 a gallon. If they go back to using JP5, at about $4 a gallon, we could probably keep all aircrews current, instead of cutting missions.

Ya, they were donated (by U.S. Taxpayers)!

They (generals) are all in training for “lobbyist” positions.

My daughter is an artist, who majored in painting. I bet she can do just as good a job for $500.

First of all most of the federal departments do this. So it is not just DoD. Take a look at State, CIA and Treasury. But we can get in line and forge a new tradition more modern and in line with volunteerism. We can hold a competition to find (I know a few already to will compete) a marvelous portrait artist (oil) for much less, say $6000. Secondly, at that price I believe all the Secretaries and Chief of Staffs can afford and can pay for it themselves as a donation, and can get a tax deduction as a donation. Lets start a new kind of tradition. Peer pressure will help the donations come in too!

We all know gigantic amount of waste occurs and this is why they don’t do an audit. If an audit was done they would be all in jail. Eliminate this: all air and ground demonstration teams, open houses, all bands except the official bands for Wash DC and the White House, replacement of office furniture, vehicles and computers that are almost new, CONFERENCES and bogus TDYs, changing uniforms every few years when the uniforms currently worn are perfectly acceptable, let Generals and commanders drive their own cars without drivers and give them a mileage allowance and when they travel unless it ios critcal, fly commercial in coach. These are just a few but I could go on and on. All of my ifeas won’t degrade national defense one iota.

You know that they could take a 34 MB photo of these people and use the latest Photoshop program to give it the appearance of an oil painting. Then take it to Michaels and have it applied to a canvas. Then give it to an artist to as apply glic‘ee. Voila. <$400

Congress is not the government

The $100 hammer (it was actually more) thing is only the usual way to “ventilate” spending that must remain discreet

We’re talking billions, not millions

These guys in the oil painting serve one thing…their ego…

41K; who the heck is the artist Michel Angelo!!!

The $400 hammer was actually $10 (just like at the hardware store). The government, however, allowed the contractor to bill us for their overhead, which accounted for the other $390.

Sequestration is a net-zero game. Every dollar cut from the federal budget goes directly back into the economy where it can be used to invest in companies, factories and training or can be used to buy more stuff. In either case, it will create additional private sector jobs, offsetting the effect to the government.

And for that “realistic” look, they can print the digital copy out on canvas! Looks just like a real painting.

Where did they get the figures for this article? Anyone doing fact checking?

Can find some art students to do the painting for class credit.


Eat a dick its Delicous, Airforce… HA!

So, my thing is; sure these guys make “tough” decisions and all, but most have never been mortared or shot at like the grunts. They get compensated twice a month for those tough decisions; probably to the tune of $5000 every two weeks. Yes, $10k or more a month, not to mention their allowances and bonus pay. They dont need a $41k painting; I’ll do it for $5k.

Weird to me that looks like an Army or Navy Uniform, not Air Force? Sleeves are quite different from AF sleeves.

So my guess AF isn’t the only ones doing this is the point I was saying, it’s all branches. Before we throw spears lets check to see what direction they are suppose to go first.

With all the Enlisted folks getting tossed out of the Military due to cut-backs, not One Flag Officer has been cut, don’t understand Why we need all these admirals and generals with the current manpower.

Spending $41,000 on a painting would require private bids from multiple sources, in some Newspaper their would be a Mechanism in place for Painters to submit their bids and the contract would be awarded to the lowest estimate. I promise you that these folks at the top do not live my the rules of the land. Now I am sure the General posed for the picture months ago and it was displayed at the wrong time but now we know where the criminals exist in the DOD.

Thunder good point just off on the estimate. You cannot hire a professional photographer for $50, you cannot print that size of an image for $50 and they usually don’t discount those $3500 frames down to $50. So you bring up a good point and I am just readjusting your estimate to around $4000.00, so you still would have saved the Little Leagers and Child Care of one of the bases. Back in 85 the Navy was paying $10,000 for toilet seats on their Aircraft and the USS Kidd purchased a $5000 leather couch for their Wardroom, they will never learn!

With all the Enlisted folks getting tossed out of the Military due to cut-backs, not One Flag Officer has been cut, don’t understand Why we need all these admirals and generals with the current manpower.

As far as hazing, I do not understand why so many choose to haze/rape/harass/sex abuse/alcohol/drugs. Something needs to be done NOW.….….….……This is a cancer deep in the bowels of our ranks and we need to prosecute the guilty and save the careers of our men and women that are trying to be Patriots.

Galli are you the Flag sec? I did 30 yrs and got what everyone else got, a handshake and an adios.
There is no way this can be justified and they also broke the purchasing laws within the DOD. Just because he is a general and doesn’t follow the rules doesn’t qualify him for a green light.

Sorry but the military was looking at alternative fuels years before the world even heard the name Obama. They desperately want to get off foreign fuel sources even if it cost more initially, it’s a national security disaster waiting to happen (kinda already is happening).

If it’s not part of the government, then what is it?

The hammer was a precision device similar to a torque wrench, but instead of applying a certain torque, it applied a certain percussive force to the head of a pin (a pin holding actuator for a fighter aircraft), and looked in appearance not unlike a tuning fork on steroids. Likewise the famous toilet seat was a complete toilet and shower enclosure for a large patrol aircraft that was designed to spend many hours in the air. Dunno ’bout the ash-tray, but I would not be surprised if the truth is more than meets the eye there, too.

Now forty grand for an oil painting, that’s offensive.

Defense contractor overhead charges are strictly limited by the Government, and it would be impossible for a contractor working under the FAR to charge so much against such an item.

Engineering drawings and data rights to items do drive up costs, but in this case it was more than an ordinary hammer that drove the cost. It was actually a bargain for what it did.

Looking into it, and finding out that nobody knows for sure.

From the Snopes link:

“As I recall, the story that began the household quotes of expensive government parts was an $800 toilet seat for the Navy’s P-3 Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft. This part was expensive because of both requirements and fraud.

Of course, on this board recalling isn’t enough, so I will see if I can dig up some evidence.

As a former sailor and current DOD contractor, I have seen many expensive military parts. For example, just the monitor for a computer workstation I used aboard an aircraft carrier was $100,000. This was because it was “ruggedized” for shipboard use. It used all proprietary hardware specifically designed for the navy. Since this hardware wasn’t sold on the open market, it was very expensive.”

And a 900 dollar non-sparking hammer.

Edit: more links:

And from Scragged (and this applies to procurement in general):

“Firm-Fixed-Price Procurement

Over the centuries, bureaucrats have learned to write more and more regulations telling how contracts are to be performed, managed, and billed. David’s contract was “firm-fixed-price.”

What David was supposed to do, namely, slay the giant single-handed, was well defined. What he was to receive was equally clear: the princess’ hand in marriage and a tax holiday for his family. There were no bonuses for exceptional performance, no penalties for late performance, no progress reports, no partial payment, no forms to fill out, just slay the giant and get paid. And in case of failure, the government was not obligated to pay anything at all.

Only David did slay the giant, but didn’t get paid.

Fixed-price contracting makes sense for building roads and bridges where contractors have enough prior experience to know how much the job will cost. There’s room for chicanery when a contractor can make a deal with an inspector who’ll let him supply substandard, and therefore cheaper, cement. We’ve seen this sort of thing in New York City recently and it’s said that some of the wire used for the Brooklyn Bridge was substandard, but fixed-price procurement works, sort of, for things we know how to do.

What happens when a President says, “Man on the moon by the end of the decade,” which nobody’s done before? Nobody has a clue how to do any of it, so how can anyone submit a fixed-price bid?”

Historical figures should have historical portraits done. We would not have paintings of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson without them. And as a working artist, I know that oil painters who have spent decades honing their skills deserve a living as well. The Pentagon has an astronomical budget compared to the arts, and as you watch your children get deprived of art programs that grow their brains and creative processing abilities (yes, it even helps them visualize mathematics better!) think about what quality of life means to you. A motorboat? A fancy car? A house that looks better than your neighbors? Think about art and whether or not you have anything made by hand in your house. Even a great charcoal sketch of your child? No? It’s a major loss. One of my clients had a sketch I did that was the first thing they grabbed off their wall when there was a fire. And as I watched the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I thought of the hundreds of sketches I had done while an artist in Staten Island that may have been destroyed. They were irreplaceable to those families, more so even than photographs.
So.…let there be art!


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