After questions over the $100 million price tag of the President’s trip to Africa arose, the White House defended the costs claiming that the expenditure offers the nation “great bang for our buck.”
After saying that the White House doesn’t determine the costs of travel and security, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that the visits to these little-noticed parts of the world would be good exposure for the United States.
“Frankly, there will be a great bang for our buck for being in Africa, because when you travel to regions like Africa that don’t get a lot of presidential attention, you can have very long-standing and long-running impact from the visit,” Rhodes said in The Hill newspaper.
Rhodes said that ignoring Africa is ceding leadership to others in the region.
“You’ve got some of the fastest growing economies in Africa. You’ve got a massively growing youth population. You’ve got key security and counterterrorism issues that we work on with African countries,” he said.
Whether the White House fully controls the costs of the trip or not, those costs are massive. The Washington Post reported that the logistics involved are extensive.
Along with a fully staffed medical trauma center on a U.S. aircraft carrier that will be sent to the region, the President will also need dozens of support vehicles and hundreds of staffers and security personnel.
Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.
The preparations even included sniper teams with high-powered rifles that would shadow the first family on a safari in Tanzania, ready to kill any animal that might become a threat. The safari, however, was canceled “in favor of a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner,” the Post reported.
The President will visit Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa on the trip.
Obama has been criticized since taking office for his repeated trips and vacations. His most recent fundraising trip to Chicago cost tax payers $180,000 an hour for the use of Air Force One, while wife Michelle also spent thousands on a trip to Boston for a separate fundraiser that same day.
Early in his first term, President Obama was heavily criticized for spending upwards of a million dollars for one “date night” with wife Michelle in New York where the couple had dinner, took a walk, and attended a Broadway show.