$4 billion might not be a lot of money when we are talking about the federal budget.
The Cost of Presidential Travel
When the President travels, hundreds of people, two Air Force Ones, maybe 45 cars, three (or so) cargo planes and the canine sniffer team accompany him.
During the Thanksgiving weekend, I actually saw the cargo plane that carries some of Vice President Biden’s SUVs. Equipped with a ramp, the rear of the plane looked like a massive whale’s open mouth. Large enough for multiple vehicles, the plane eliminated the need for secure cars at every destination.
Why mention this? For Air Force One and Two, it is all a part of the price of presidential transport.
In London during April, the President’s entourage included five minibuses and a dozen or so “black cars with blacked-out windows.”
New Air Force Ones
And now, the cost of presidential travel will probably include two new Air Force Ones in “military spending.” (The U.S. President always has a back-up plane.) Because almost everything on Air Force One is out-of-date, the Air Force has placed a $170 million order for two 747-8 jets. Scheduled for a 2023 or 2024 delivery, the planes will cost more because of their specifications…like withstanding electromagnetic waves from a nuclear explosion. Or having a galley that can feed 100 people. Or built-in luggage handling equipment.
So yes, it could all add up to $4 billion. But let’s put the total in perspective.
The defense budget:
One of the largest budget items, after Social Security, Medicare and Health, defense spending is more than $630 billion dollars.
Our Bottom Line: Discretionary Spending in the Federal Budget
We can divide the federal budget into mandatory and discretionary spending. Including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the mandatory part is required by law. As you can see in our pie graph, mandatory spending is more than half of all federal spending. Once we subtract defense from the discretionary part of the budget, we wind up with very little room to spend more or less.
So, when President-elect Trump suggests we save money on Air Force One, he is referring to the discretionary spending in the federal budget.
My sources and more: Including fascinating detail about Air Force One specifications, this Wired article was excellent. As for the budget, I like to go to National Priorities and the Concord Coalition, the White House and the Congressional Research Service. And finally, this new book is about the secret service canine sniffer team.