President Obama’s $100 million trip to African offers “great bang for our buck,” the White House said Friday.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes defended the cost of Obama’s upcoming trip to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania, which could cost taxpayers as much as $100 million.
"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.
The White House spokesman added that “the president's not going to retreat from an entire continent on terms of the cost.”
"We don't determine the cost of the president's security, just as President Bush didn't and President Clinton didn't," he said. "The Secret Service is going to do what they think is necessary to protect the president. That's going to come with its own cost. But we don't sit here and say, ‘We want to spend X amount of money on a trip.’”
The Washington Post reported Friday that the weeklong visit would require moving some 56 support vehicles, dozens of Secret Service agents, and military jets and ships to the continent. The White House reportedly scrapped a planned safari for Obama and his family when the Post inquired about the costs.
According to the newspaper, the safari would have required “sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat.”
At the White Hose on Friday, Rhodes did not address the safari but argued that Obama’s failure to visit the “overlooked” region would be ceding U.S. leadership.
“You've got some of the fastest growing economies in Africa. You've got a massively growing youth population,” he said. “You've got key security and counterterrorism issues that we work on with African countries.”