The decision by First Lady Michelle Obama to leave on schedule for her two-week Hawaii vacation and not wait a few days for her delayed husband will probably cost taxpayers more than $63,000 – and possibly well in excess of $100,000 – in additional expenses, according to a White House Dossier analysis.
President Obama was supposed to depart for Hawaii Saturday, but decided to stay in Washington until Congress finishes its work for the year. He departs this evening. But Mrs. Obama chose to leave without him Saturday, taking their two children and the dog along with her.
Mrs. Obama’s decision to go without the president forced her to take a separate plane, meaning two flights instead of one were needed to ferry the First Family to their vacation destination. Unless for some reason her plane was headed to Hawaii anyway, her trip involves substantial additional costs.
Mrs. Obama jetted out to Hawaii on an Air Force C-40B Special Mission Aircraft. The Defense Department bills other agencies $6,330 per flight hour for use the plane.
Assuming a flight time from Washington DC to Hawaii of about ten hours, the cost to taxpayers for the flight alone would be about $63,000.
But Mrs. Obama’s determination to get her full two weeks of Hawaiian rest and relaxation probably cost a good deal more. By leaving early, she forced a large logistical support operation – including a retinue of Secret Service agents – to get itself up and running.
This is in addition to the support that will be needed to bring President Obama to Hawaii via Air Force One. Since the cost of moving the entire family together on Air Force One would not likely have been much different than that of taking just the president, the first lady’s trip is an add-on.
Also, as several readers have pointed out, the aircraft will likely have to be returned empty to Washington, potentially doubling the cost to about $126,000 for the plane use alone.
What’s more, Mrs. Obama has decided to make a size 14 carbon footprint by commandeering her own jet to take her to Hawaii.
The first lady has previously garnered criticism for her vacation travel, particularly a four-night luxury excursion to Spain last August.
Mrs. Obama’s Hawaii transportation is a modestly sized plane based on the commercial Boeing 737 and seating up to 32 passengers. Here is the Air Force description of it:
The cabin area is equipped with a crew rest area, distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations, two galleys and business class seating with worktables.
The C-40B is designed to be an “office in the sky” for senior military and government leaders. Communications are paramount aboard the C-40B which provides broadband data/video transmit and receive capability as well as clear and secure voice and data communication. It gives combatant commanders the ability to conduct business anywhere around the world using on-board Internet and local area network connections, improved telephones, satellites, television monitors, and facsimile and copy machines.
Despite the president’s delayed departure, the most recent information is that the entire Obama clan will return to Washington as scheduled January 1.
The first lady’s press office did not respond to requests for comment.