New Study of Presidential Travel: Obama Spends More Time Abroad than All But One Predecessor


As President Obama continues his extensive week-long trip to Africa, taxpayers at home are left stranded with basic questions over costs and transparency. That’s the underlying conclusion of an updated study released today from National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), which compared the foreign travel habits of Chief Executives as well as some of the expenses he and the First Lady would incur on their voyages.

NTUF’s examination shows that Barack Obama is on track to be one of the most traveled Presidents in the nation’s history. He is currently trailing only George H.W. Bush among postwar U.S. leaders. Furthermore, President Obama’s tendency to take more trips, that are shorter in duration, make him likelier (after adjusting for obvious factors like inflation) to have bigger bills (air travel, security detail, planning) than his predecessors. Due to opaque reporting by government sources on such expenses, the full cost of the President’s travel is difficult to pin down.

“In 2010, NTUF found President Obama had traveled abroad more than any other President in his first two years in office, and he’s still on track to be the second-most traveled,” said study author Michael Tasselmyer. “Perhaps his domestic agenda, or focus on the most expensive campaign in history, contributed to him pulling back on foreign excursions during the latter part of his first term.”

Among the key findings in “Up in the Air,” NTUF’s Study of Presidential Travel:

  • President Obama was the second-most traveled President of all time for a single term, spending 95 days on 25 trips.
  • In 2009, President Obama traveled more in his first year than any other President. Obama spent 41 days traveling to 21 different countries.
  • The most updated figure on the cost per hour of operating Air Force One is $179,750, but this is just a tiny fraction of a President’s foreign travel plan, which includes back-up aircraft, aerial tankers, motor transport, security and diplomatic personnel, accommodations, and advance teams.
  • In 2013, the President has made 4 international trips already, to the Middle East, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Africa – with at least 2 more trips planned to Moscow and Southeast Asia.
  • President Obama has spent less time at his destinations than any President since Johnson, at an average of 3.8 days.
  • Presidential entourages have grown quite large in the modern era! President Obama was accompanied by more than 500 staff (including security) during his 2009 trip to London. At least 200 security agents alone will be involved in the President’s current Africa trip.
  • The First Lady has also been actively traveling, making trips to Ireland, Africa, Western Europe, and Copenhagen. When flying solo Michelle Obama would likely use a C-40B or C with a cost per flight hour of $19,755-$26,936, or a larger C-32 passenger jet, which has a cost per flight hour of $42,936.

Tasselmyer concluded, “The frequency and growing cost of Presidential travel call for more transparency, when it does not directly compromise security. As it stands now, taxpayers are shelling out untold millions with little opportunity for oversight. No matter who is in office, Americans should have the facts they need to have a rational conversation on the merits and affordability of a Chief Executive’s journeys.”