The U.S. government will spend an estimated $60 million to $100 million on an array of security and travel provisions for an Obama family trip to Africa later this month, according to a report published by The Washington Post on Thursday.
The cost of human capital includes 100 Secret Service Agents at each of the first three cities the Obamas will visit, followed by 65 at the fourth, and another 80 to 100 to work rotating around-the-clock shifts to protect the first family.
In addition, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier equipped as a “floating hospital” with an amphibious ship will be stationed off the coast, and fighter jets will provide 24-hour coverage of air space in the region.
The report does not specify individual costs for these provisions, but rather estimates the figure based on similar trips in the past and a confidential internal planning document The Post received from “a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip.”
President Obama will hold bilateral meetings and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with leaders in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania between June 26 and July 3, while the first lady headlines related events. The Obama daughters will also make the trip.
The Post report says the Obamas had planned to take a Tanzanian safari, but canceled once the paper began inquiring into the cost.
The safari would have required another 35 security agents and “the president’s special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document.”
The revelation will likely add fuel to the perpetual budget battles between Congress and the White House, which earlier this year produced the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. The White House announced it would stop giving public tours because of the cuts.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes defended the costs, saying it’s the first substantial presidential delegation to sub-Saharan Africa, and that the emerging democracies in the region will be critical U.S. allies in the future.
“The infrastructure that accompanies the president’s travels is beyond our control,” he added. “The security requirements are not White House-driven, they are Secret Service-driven. ... Part of this is the nature of making sure we travel to emerging areas in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. They are not as designed to facilitate the footprint of the United States president.”