Logistical details leaked to The Washington Post ahead of this week’s trip to Africa by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, provide a glimpse into why the trip could cost an estimated $60 million to $100 million, according to a report at All Africa.
Military cargo planes will airlift dozens of vehicles including about a dozen limos to the African cities the couple will visit, according to the report. Bulletproof glass will cover the windows of the hotels where they stay.
Hundreds of Secret Service agents will arrive ahead of the presidential couple, and swarm around them every step of the way, the report says. Jet fighters of the U.S. Air Force will accompany the president’s plane, ready to intervene if unauthorized aircraft get too close. U.S. Navy vessels will be stationed off coastal cities he visits, equipped with medical trauma centers in case of emergencies.
Parade limos and other vehicles for the president and first lady will be flown to each city they visit including a special communications vehicle for secure phone and video connections; a truck that jams radio frequencies around the presidential motorcade; a fully loaded ambulance that can handle biological or chemical contaminants and a truck for X-ray equipment, the report says.
A two-hour safari previously scheduled for the presidential couple in Tanzania was nixed because it would have required a special counter-assault team, the report said. Instead , the couple is going to Robben Island off Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, according to the report.
A debate over finances was sparked by the Post’s estimate that the presidential trip would cost $60-$100 million.
John Campbell, former ambassador to Nigeria, now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told All Africa, “Of course it’s worth the expense.
“Presidential travel is, by definition, extremely expensive, no matter where he goes…If he goes to New York, the costs are, from a certain perspective, huge. Let’s keep everything in context.”