Every now and again, a tired and predictable outrage erupts over the cost of Bush’s! Obama’s! or (fill in the blank) _____’s travel. We heard one a few weeks ago when the President went! to! Africa!
The rants are usually accompanied by charges that the President is getting all tyrannical and acting like a king plus no other President has been so respectful of hard-working tax-paying Americans, so extravagant (especially if the President being so characterized is of anther political party).
And they’re right. President protection has reached preposterous levels. As for the effectiveness of the web of security we’ve constructed, look no further than Reagan – shot from just a few yards away while surrounded by Secret Service.
From the time of the Kennedy assassination, the retinue – from the epic productions that are foreign travel, to the limo known as “The Beast” and the ambulances that accompany every POTUS motorcade – has grown like a cancer.
Here’s The Dog (he does not even try to list the number of people who travel with the President – staff aides, cooks, stewards, pilots, government functionaries):
Aircraft for the President:
- Air Force One of course
- a second B-747-200 back up plane in case the one the President is traveling on has trouble.
Helicopters when needed:
- Marine One Helicopter – for POTUS
- For security details and press, another 4-5 choppers
The helicopters are airlifted by Air Force C-17 Cargo planes to EACH stop on the trip
- Presidential Limo’s – two limos for EACH stop
- Secret Service ‘Back-Up’ Vehicles to transport the President’s Security Detail
- White House Communications Vehicle – This SUV will be in the motorcade to help keep up contact with the US from anywhere on the planet
- Secret Service Counter Assault Team SUV – Heavily armed firepower to protect POTUS (in addition to the Security Detail)
- Hazmat Vehicle – A Marine detail in case of a chemical assault on the POTUS group
- White House Medical Team Vehicle – Usually a US Doctor from the WH Staff plus a paramedic or military medic with their equipment
All of the vehicles (about 8 to 10 ) are airlifted by Air Force C-17 Cargo planes to EACH stop
Advance planning personnel:
- For each stop – and months in advance – White House Staff check and negotiate the best place for the POTUS to appear…..Also in those advance parties are Secret Service Teams who handle the security workups once the White House staff decide on a venue
- In-country State Department staff will welcome the advance teams and work with them and the host country
- If a hotel overnight is planned, EOD/Explosive Ordinance Details are flown in in advance. The hotel is then secured by separate groups of Secret Service, State and borrowed Federal Special Agents and other agencies people like Border Patrol. All of the on-site people are flown in for EACH stop in advance (and they too have to have somewhere to stay).
- The largest group traveling with a President is the media. There are often two official press planes
- The ‘elite’ press, the White House Press Pool actually travel with the President, in the motorcade or on Air Force One or even in one of the Marine One Helo groups
- When the President sleeps over it’s a big thing. There must be a security ‘lock down’ of the whole hotel. Or POTUS will stay in an embassy or US military facility in countries where the Secret Service and State Department don’t feel comfortable with the local hotels
AND THEN THERE’S FLOTUS: IF the First Lady is traveling with her man, we now have to add:
- The First Lady of the United States will often have a SEPARATE itinerary at a stop and that means her own Transportation and Security Details, Press and Support staff.
- FLOTUS limo – She will travel in an armored Suburban.
- Protective Detail – her own separate detail flies with her in Air Force One, is slotted into the motorcade and gets a Marine Helo.
- If she goes on a separate trip – oh boy, here we go. It’s almost back to step one for a POTUS trip.
- The trip must be ‘advanced’ – every site visited, agents put in place
FLOTUS has her own vehicles too and they travel in a separate C-17.