In light of the coming sequestration that will slow the rate of growth of federal spending, the Navy has announced that it cannot afford to send an aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, on a previously-scheduled mission to the Persian Gulf, nor can it afford to refuel another carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln. To further dramatize the cuts, the White House has invited Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to brief the press corps on what the administration says will be the devastating consequences of sequestration. The White House has also released a state-by-state analysis of sequestration showing how each state will lose millions of federal dollars, resulting in teachers being laid off, Head Start being denied to children, and a variety of other problems. And the president has ordered top administration officials to make contingency plans to deal with sequestration.
So today President Obama travels to Newport News, Virginia to “highlight the impact of sequester,” as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. The question is, given the preparations he has ordered his administration to take, has the president done anything to reduce the cost of his trip to Virginia?
Few people know the precise cost of presidential travel — many of the details are secret — but there’s no doubt it’s very expensive. Of course there is the cost of operating Air Force One, estimated at about $180,000 an hour, but that is just the beginning. The president travels with lots of staff, guests, and security. He has to have extensive, and complex, communications capabilities. Military transports have to fly his heavily armored car, and a backup, to his destination. There are costs to local police, fire, and other public safety departments. All in all, it’s a very expensive undertaking.
That is not to say the president should not travel. If Obama feels the Newport News visit is essential to his campaign against the sequester, there’s nothing to stop him from doing it. But in the spirit of the instructions he has (belatedly) given to members of his administration, what steps has the president taken to reduce the cost of his travel?
I’ve asked that question of the White House and will pass on the answer.