Not that I want to get attacked. But I wouldn’t call a $30 dinner living it up. Even so, why do we have to pay for their dinner at all?
That's an straw-man arguement. They are travelling for business. If they were home, they would have the convenience of going to their fridge and fixing their own meal. By virtue of being forced to travel, they are denied access to their kitchen and groceries. Because most hotels do not include a built-in kitchen; the traveller if forced to eat. He would not be in this situation, if not required by his business. A $30 dinner, depending on where you are eating, may be extravagent, or if at the airport, barely enough to cover more than fast food.
I was stationed in DC in a Joint Billet when I was only a Captain (O-3). My duties had me traveling almost every other week.
I kept meticulous records and in the four years I lost money on EVERY TDY trip that involved CONUS destinations. The closest I ever got to breaking even was one TDY where I not only stayed in a real dive of a motel but ate at the nearby McDonald's twice per day and skipped lunches. I lost only $11 that week.
Since I had no choice in getting that duty, and I had a wife and child, the stipend I received to defray my food costs while away was to help me since I could not just go home to eat like a civilian. Or do you think I, and the men in my office should have paid for our plane tickets as well.
Why pay for their dinner? Because we ordered them to go wherever they traveled... thus they are in a hotel and have no place to cook.
So they have to eat out. Don’t like it? Don’t have the agencies send ‘em.