May 28 2014

Golden Gym Benefits for DARPA

National Review

Jillian Kay Melchior

Government workers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will enjoy membership at a full-service gym within a mile of their Arlington, Va., office — kindly subsidized by the taxpayer. Earlier this week, the agency announced contracts with two gyms, contracts that have a total value of up to $1.02 million.

Each contract can accommodate up to 150 DARPA workers, including both civilians and members of the military. Employees will contribute a portion of that $1.02 million total potential contract value.

At Gold’s Gym in Arlington, DARPA employees will be responsible for $20 of the monthly fee, with the federal government covering $31, an employee says. At Sport & Health Clubs in Arlington, another gym employee tells me by phone that the federal government “pretty much pays for the entire membership right off the bat” for DARPA workers.

Both gyms offer several cardio machines, a full weight-training program, group exercise classes, a sauna, and other amenities

The total amount taxpayers spend on these DARPA gym memberships will be determined partially by the number of employees who choose to participate, an agency spokesperson writes, adding that “historically, DARPA pays considerably less than the full value of such contracts.” The spokesperson adds that DARPA anticipates “paying $6,000 or less per year to Gold’s Gym and $18,000 or less per year to Sport & Health Clubs.”

According to DARPA’s March 11, 2014, solicitation of bids for the contracts, “DARPA’s goal is to improve its employees’ health and reduce unintentional injuries due to poor physical fitness, thereby increasing employee readiness to meet DARPA’s mission.”

— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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