White House disputes cost of Asia trip
November 5th, 2010
01:34 PM ET

White House disputes cost of Asia trip

Washington (CNN) Presidential travel overseas can be expensive, but $200 million dollars a day? Not quite.

A report from the Press Trust of India citing an unnamed source inside the Indian government claimed President Obama's trip to India beginning Friday is costing American taxpayers $200 million dollars a day. The report was picked up Thursday by radio talk-show hosts, conservative blogs, and repeated by Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann on CNN, creating a wave of criticism about Mr. Obama's ten-day Asia trip, even before he crossed the Atlantic.

Citing security concerns, the White House won’t tell us how much the trip is going cost but they said the report is flat wrong.

When asked about the figure Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs snapped, "We have set the record straight with you guys. ...This trip doesn't cost 200 million dollars a day."

The Press Trust also speculated that President Obama would be accompanied by 3,000 guests, 34 warships (including an aircraft carrier) and 40 planes.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, also seemed flabbergasted at the speculation, telling reporters Thursday, "I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd the notion that somehow we were deploying ten percent of the navy – some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier – in support of the president's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done."

While the administration officials are reticent to give specifics about costs of Presidential travel, there is some information in the public domain.

According to figures from the U.S. Air Force released in 2009, it costs more than $100,000 an hour to fly Air Force One, making President Obama's 13-hour flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Mumbai approximately 1.3 million dollars. But of course, presidential travel also includes costs for support staff, Secret Service, equipment, and hotels.

A Government Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report from 1999 broke down former President Bill Clinton's 10 day trip to Africa from 1998. It estimated the President's trip covering six countries cost $42.88 million, excluding expenses for Secret Service protection which is classified. Mr. Clinton's entourage to Africa included 1300 people, whose expenses were paid by government agencies.

White House officials call the $200 million figure for President Obama's Asia trip "wildly inflated." Gibbs said the cost of protecting the president for his trip overseas "are comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad."

Topics: AF1 • Asia • India • President Clinton • President Obama • The News • White House

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