He's only been in office for less than two years, but at the rate President Obama is flying Air Force One around the world, he is destined to become the most traveled president in history—and also the most costly, when it comes to travel expenses. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
Of the 10 modern-day presidents since Dwight Eisenhower, Obama is the most traveled in his first two years of office, averaging 27.5 days a year out of the country. He's already spent 55 days in office out of the United States, costing taxpayers millions as he attempts to expand the nation's influence overseas and attends economic and military summits required of all presidents, according to the National Taxpayer's Union Foundation. And he could have been gone more: domestic political troubles forced Obama to nix some travel.
In a new report, the taxpayers' group also reveals that the previously estimated costs of presidential travel have been vastly underestimated. While it is impossible to get a complete tally because so many agencies are involved, one key element—Air Force One travel costs—is amazingly higher than previously stated. Earlier news reports have pegged the jet's cost at between $34,000-$100,000 an hour. But the Air Force told NTUF that the actual cost is a whopping $181,757 an hour. That means that the president's two recent trips to Asia and Portugal cost the Air Force alone $11.4 million and that doesn't include other costs like food, hotels, staff expenses, and all the other aircraft and Secret Service cars pre-positioned at each stop. [See photos of the Obamas abroad.]
"Thanksgiving travelers waiting in long airport lines know how much they're paying for their trips, and as taxpayers they likewise deserve to know how much it costs to send Presidents overseas," said the Taxpayer Union's Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady. "Only then can they have a rational conversation about whether the pomp of presidential travel is worth the price."
His report also noted that presidents typically fly overseas far more in their second term, some doubling their days on Air Force One. In his first four years in office, for example, Bill Clinton spent 80 days traveling. In his second term, he was overseas 153 days.
According to the new NTUF report, seen here, the top 10 presidential travelers during the first two years in office are:
1. President Obama, 55 days
2. George H.W. Bush, 54 days
3. George W. Bush, 47 days
4. Bill Clinton, 40
5. Gerald Ford, 38
6. Richard Nixon, 30
7. Jimmy Carter, 29
8. John F. Kennedy, 20
9. Dwight Eisenhower, 9
10. Lyndon Johnson, 1