Summary of White House Expenses Under Barack Obama

The following is a summary of the annual expenses incurred by federal taxpayers in the most recent years for which data is available. These expenses cover President Obama, his family, and the staff that is directly responsible for supporting the White House.

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  • President’s salary and allowance: $450,000
  • White House building operating expenses: $14,658,000
  • White House grounds: $6,057,000
  • Vacations: $20,000,000

    This is difficult to determine, because of the different trips in different years, although the cost of maintaining Camp David remains pretty constant at approximately $8 million and the most expensive vacations the Obamas have taken, Hawaii for Christmas, have occurred both in 2010 and 2011. We have used an average over the years, including Camp David expenses, of $20 million.

  • Health care: $7,000,000

    We have based this on the number of personnel both in the permanent White House medical staff and also those who travel with him, both of which are outlined below. The White House medical staff also takes care of the Obama family and other high ranking staff, but the traveling staff is really solely for the president. However, when Michelle Obama travels separately from the president she also has a doctor and nurse accompany her. We have included salaries for these personnel, as well as medical equipment costs and overhead such as hotel rooms for the traveling staff.

  • Unreimbursed campaign expenses: $311,000,000

    Upon close analysis, we have determined that approximately 40% of the president’s travel is actually campaign related, although the number reported officially is far smaller. Traveling is far and away the most expensive thing the president does because it incurs massive transportation and security costs. While $311,000,000 may seem very high, it is probably actually a gross underestimate, because we have used 40% of his transportation and security costs in an average year, and those costs in an election year are far higher, as we have outlined below. Only a tiny portion of this number is required for reimbursement under current federal campaign laws.

  • White House staff: $7,985,420
  • Office of Administration budget: $14,481,000 (2012)

    This is purely administrative personnel to support the president, First Lady, and White House staff. We have used only one–eighth of the cost, as the rest may actually relate to policy support, although it’s possible we should have used as much as one half.

  • Special missions including White House Communications Agency: $161,252,000
  • Military salary costs: $153,441,360

    This includes the salary costs for the 2,000–plus military employees that work in the White House Communications Agency and other departments we outline here, but it does not include the 1,000–plus employees of the Presidential Airlift Squadron.

  • Salary costs for presidential airlift squadron: $75,000,000

    This number is not publicly reported, but we have based it on the salary costs for the military personnel working in the White House.

  • Presidential plane fleet: $44,000,000

    This only includes operating expenses such as fuel and plane maintenance for Air Force One; it does not include anything for the actual development or building of the presidential plane fleet, which has not been recent and for which we could not obtain reliable numbers, or for the many other planes operated by the presidential airlift division. Also, it is based on the most recent year; this campaign year will be much higher.

  • Presidential helicopter fleet: $300,000,000

    This is one of the most notable expenses and includes operating costs for the 31 helicopters in the presidential helicopter fleet, termination costs for the program which Obama canceled at a loss of $3.1 billion, and research costs for the new helicopter fleet to replace the existing one.

  • Ground transportation: $2,200,000

    This is the figure the government released for 2011, but we haven’t been able to figure out what it includes. Operating expenses and/or maintenance for the Beast, Obama’s $2 million limousine purchased in 2009? Operating expenses for the huge numbers of motorcades, sometimes with as many as 45 cars? Maintenance and operating expenses for the custom made presidential buses? We guess this is a vast underestimate of actual costs for this segment.

  • TRANSPORTATION TOTAL: $346,200,000
  • Secret Service: $259,152,884

    The Secret Service has a total budget of over $1.5 billion, with 3,000 employees and 125 offices worldwide—far more offices than most of America’s largest companies. However, they have a number of duties outside the scope of this book. The four categories that pertain to the White House are:

    • Secret Service mail screening: $25,315,000
    • Protective intelligence: $58,761,000
    • Secret Service training: $73,848,949
    • Protection of persons and facilities: $705,918,000

    The total for that figure is $863,842,949. Although protecting the president and his family is far and away the most important and visible of the Secret Service’s duties, we have used only 50% of the totals of $863,842,949 below to account for the protection of other figures outside the White House, such as visits to the US by other world leaders. 50% is $431,921,474. But we have used 40% of this number as part of campaign expenses, leaving 60% or $259,152,884.

  • Former presidents: $0

    $87,000,000 per year is spent on former presidents, and Obama will undoubtedly be entitled to millions in taxpayer–funded benefits for his future protection, operating costs for his presidential library, staffing, pension, various other benefits, and, eventually, a state funeral. But we have not included any of these costs, as they have not yet been incurred.

  • GRAND TOTAL: $1,376,677,664

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