President Barack Obama's tour of sub-Saharan Africa this month was supposed to make history as his first stay extended stay in the region, but a report by the Washington Post this week has shifted focus onto the trip's price tag, which could reach upwards of $100 million.
When the first family departs on June 26 for a weeklong visit to the continent that will bring them to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, they'll kick into motion an expansive security procedure that is typical for any presidential travel.
The entire security apparatus is required to be present on the ground at each of Obama's stops, as his quick pace will leave little time for the entire detail to pack up and redeploy at the next location. The Post reports that this challenge has led to a requirement of 56 total support vehicles -- 14 of them limousines and three of them trucks carrying bulletproof glass panels to cover the windows where the first family is set to stay. All of these will be flown to their various positions by military jet.
Secret Service agents will also be flying to each of the African locations en-masse, ensuring that they have secured the premises prior to the first family's arrival. The Post reports that hundreds of agents will be needed for the operation.
All said, the cost is expected to run the federal government somewhere between $60 million and $100 million, an amount that the White House told the Post is almost entirely determined by what the Secret Service deems necessary in order to ensure the safety of the president and first family. But the fact that the report comes amid sequestration, which took a toll on the Secret Service budget earlier this year, is likely to bolster critics who have questioned the real impact of the cuts.
Obama's forthcoming trip is the latest evidence that presidential travel is both incredibly expensive and frequently controversial. When President Bill Clinton went to Africa in 1998, his trip came at a cost of around $42.8 million. President George W. Bush made two trips to Africa during his tenure, though information from the Government Accountability Office hasn't turned up a specific figure.
Of course, Obama's milestone trip to Africa isn't all about how much people are spending on it. The president is also expected to spend time re-affirming partnerships with the sub-Saharan powers and emphasizing the importance of global health programs, including HIV/AIDS prevention.