As the first family and their entourage of security, staffers, aides and assistants prepare for a pricey weeklong trip to Africa, the White House continued to justify and defend the exorbitant cost, saying security is expensive.
After saying last week the Africa trip “will be a great bang for our buck,” deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday in a conference call that the bulk of the cost of the trip is for security measures determined by the U.S. Secret Service, not the White House.
“First of all we don’t have the exact figure of costs. Frankly we don’t form or control those numbers,” The Hill reported Rhodes said. “The security requirements which make up the bulk of the costs are determined by Secret Service and they don’t publicly release breakdowns of the costs of the trips but again, this is something that is determined not by White House planning.”
The Washington Post reported the Obama’s trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania may cost the taxpayers as much as $100 million.
Some of the elaborate security precautions, according to the Post, include:
A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency.
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.
However, Rhodes suggested Americans look at the benefits of the trip instead of focusing on the outrageous cost.
“I don’t think it’s in the U.S. interest for the United States to step aside and cede any potential opportunity for our country because we don’t want to move forward with presidential travel,” he said, according to the Washington Times. “There’s nothing that can make an impact more in terms of our foreign policy and our economic and security interests than the president of the United States coming to Africa.”
And though the White House considers “Africa as one of the most important emerging regions in the world,” Rhodes said, Yahoo reported the first family isn’t visiting Obama’s family in his “ancestral homeland,” Kenya.
According to Yahoo:
Rhodes acknowledged the president’s “deep personal and familial connections” to Kenya and noted that Obama has visited the country as a private citizen and as a senator. But Rhodes said it “wasn’t the best time for the president to travel to Kenya” given the recent election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, who both face charges of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.