Taxpayers Tab: Still Up In The Air

President Obama returned from his most recent overseas voyage late Tuesday night after spending 6 days in Kenya and Ethiopia. He is now tied with former President Clinton for the most international trips through July in the seventh year of the presidency.

New data from National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) study of Presidential travel, “Still Up in the Air”, found Obama has spent 161 days abroad during his presidency on 41 international trips.

This equals former President Clinton’s 41 trips. Obama has tended toward shorter stays, falling shy of Clinton’s 178 days spent overseas.

Table 1. Presidential Travel Abroad Through July of Seventh Year in Office
PresidentTripsVisitsNumber of Days
Bush, G.W.38105157
1. Sources: State Department data, media reports.

2. Visits are defined as the number of countries traveled to during a trip (e.g., if the President spends time in 4 countries before returning to the U.S., that is counted as 4 visits).

The estimated cost of flying Air Force One on the latest trips to Kenya and Ethiopia: $5,983,773 with a total flight time of 29 hours. The most recent estimate on the hourly cost of flying Air Force One from Fiscal Year 2015, verified by NTUF, is $206,337 per flight hour. This figure, obtained by Judicial Watch, represents a slight decline from 2013.

This figure represents just the tip of the tailfin when it comes to the full costs of transporting the President abroad. Unfortunately for taxpayers, there is little public accounting of the total expenses involved -- which are likely to be quite high.

Recent terrorist activities in Kenya demanded intense security measures, as not only the President but 20 Members of Congress and officials from several federal departments and agencies also came along for the ride. Presidential travel overseas requires an entourage numbering in the hundreds (including security, communications, and logistics personnel) as well as several advance trips, dozens of cargo planes to airlift ground transport, mobile medical facilities, and constant military air patrols. These costs are not disclosed to the public due to security concerns but there are few details about even the non-security related spending.

“Still Up In The Air” is a continuation of NTUF’s ongoing analysis of this important -- albeit expensive -- Presidential duty. The paper explores the types of preparations necessary to ensure the President’s safety when he travels to other countries, and shows how little we know about what those measures cost.

For the full report, which includes details on President Obama’s recent trip to Africa and his other travels to date, be sure to visit NTUF’s website.


National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to helping Americans of all ages understand how taxes, government spending, and regulations affect them. Through our timely information, analysis, and commentary, we’re empowering citizens to engage in important policy debates and hold officials accountable.

Our findings are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to aid or hinder the passage of legislation or as a comment on any Member’s or Candidate's fitness to serve.