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Welcome to my Blog! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be posting from time to time my adventures in writing and my trials and tribulations in the publishing world, along with anything relevant in regards to current events, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Intelligence community that appears in the press. Please note that anything I post is not reflective or representative of any official position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Air Force; only my views and opinions as a private citizen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

America's CEO and His Travel Costs in a Down Economy

As the Chief Executive of the United States, and the Commander-in-Chief of our nation's military forces, the President of the United States has many responsibilities and has some unique security requirements and communications needs when he or she is away from the White House.

As many Americans know, the aircraft the President generally travels on is known by the military designation VC-25, a heavily modified Boeing 747, costing $325 million each (we bought two back in 1987). The VC-25 is often mistakenly referred to as Air Force One. The call sign 'Air Force One' is used only when the President is aboard the VC-25 or any aircraft.

What is lesser known, is that Presidential airlift missions, managed and operated by the U.S. Air Force, include the movement of Secret Service personnel, armored cars, and other support equipment and personnel. The Air Force usually moves these people with two or more C-17 or C-5 heavy lift aircraft.

According to an article in USA Today in June of 2004, operating the VC-25 costs roughly $56,800 per hour. In 2009, with fuel costs higher than in 2004, we can probably make a good guess that a flight hour for the VC-25 is in the $65,000 - $75,000 range, but I'll use the $56,800 per hour rate for this discussion.

According to a GAO report on Presidential travel costs issued during August 2000, operating a C-17 cost $6,664 per flight hour. The GAO report was requested by Rep. Henry Waxman (D), of the 30th District of California.

If we assume that a quick trip to Phoenix by the President requires two C-17's to move the support personnel and equipment, and the use of the VC-25 for four hours for the actual presidential movement, the total cost just on the air travel side alone would be $280,512 one way and $561,024 for the round trip. These costs are obviously conservative, given that they have likely increased over time. They also don't include: the cost of the helicopter flight to and from Andrews AFB, to board/de-plane from the VC-25, the salaries of the Secret Service advance and protection details, gas for the convoy of cars he'll use while he's there, or the helicopter they may fly him around in.

I sincerely hope, that in addition to:

  • Trying to end inflated executive compensation packages for bankers and other businessmen who oversee failing institutions
  • Mandating that members of his administration have their pay frozen
  • Cheering on (properly) as his former congressional colleauges disparage Detroit automakers fly on private jets (at roughly $20,000 round trip)

The President takes a serious look at how he spends taxpayer dollars on his own travel.

Certainly the President has unique security and communications needs. But he can take smaller Air Force jets, costing less to operate, or better yet, he can use a Video Teleconferencing system like other corporate leaders, rather than traveling at all. Surely, the White House has one.

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