Q: What possible rationalization would warrant President Obama and his family’s trip to sub-Saharan Africa at a cost of possibly $100 million? Where is the sequester?
—Geraldine Dunne, Johns Creek
A: Obama’s trip — which is scheduled to include one night in Dakar, Senegal, two nights in Johannesburg, a night in Cape Town and one in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – is overdue because the president hasn’t visited sub-Saharan Africa since 2009, the White House said. The “emerging democracies on the itinerary are crucial partners in regional security conflicts,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told The Washington Post. The paper reported the trip could cost between $60 and $100, coming up with the figure by estimating the costs of previous African trips. President Bill Clinton’s 1998 trip to six African nations cost at least $42.7 million, the Post reported. President George W. Bush went to Africa in both 2003 and 2008, taking wife Laura on both trips. The Secret Service, which is in charge of the president’s security, will send hundreds of agents to Africa in advance of the trip despite having to cut $84 million from its budget, which included canceling White House tours. Michelle Obama, who visited Africa in 2011, is accompanying the president on this trip, and will attend separate events, which adds to the logistical challenges. This trip requires 56 support vehicles – including 14 limos — which have to be airlifted to Africa, U.S. fighter jets and a hospital on a nearby aircraft carrier or amphibious ship.
Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email email@example.com (include name, phone and city).