Despite a heightened level of threats, Vice President Dick Cheney is eligible for only 180 days of U.S. Secret Service protection after he leaves office, unlike the president, who gets it for at least 10 years. But it will be pricey nonetheless. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan put the tab at $4 million, or about $22,222 a day for the full-time agents and cars required. But if you think that sounds outrageous, it isn't. The service spends just slightly less protecting each of the two Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. While no formal request has been made for the service to protect Cheney, Sullivan expects it to come, so he has already set aside the money for the project. It's just one of the chores of the Secret Service. Others this year include protecting the pope during his visit and watching over the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Other spending plans outlined this week in Sullivan's $1.4 billion budget request are $27 million for presidential candidate protection; $4.5 million to hire President Bush's post-presidency detail; and the planned purchase of new "protective countermeasures," such as new armored limos, new locks at the White House, and a mail screening service. During a budget hearing, Sullivan talked at length about the presidential race and the upcoming visit by the pope. He said that the campaign coverage started earlier than ever before and that crowds are huge. "It has gone very, very well," he said. Meanwhile, he said that foreign travel by the first family and the Cheneys has doubled, putting greater pressure on the budget.