WASHINGTON -- It's turning out to be a costly commute home for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The Pentagon chief has traveled on military aircraft to his home in Northern California more than two dozen times since he took the defense post in July -- trips that have cost the government about $32,000 each.

Panetta, in turn, has reimbursed the government about $630 per round-trip for the personal flights, based on long-standing formulas dictated by federal policies.

The totals detailed by defense officials lay out his reimbursements for the first time, showing that as of March 19, Panetta had written checks to the Treasury totaling about $17,000 for 27 round-trip flights. The total cost to the Pentagon is as much as $860,000 based on average fuel and operating costs for his Air Force planes.

As Pentagon chief, Panetta is required to travel on military planes because they have the secure communications equipment he needs to stay in contact with the president and other top civilian and military leaders.

The amount he pays is calculated using what a full-fare coach trip would cost.

The Associated Press

Latest videos