Barack Obama has spent more time traveling internationally than any other modern president — at a skyrocketing cost to taxpayers, according to a study by a watchdog group.
The survey by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF)
was released Monday as the president started a five-day, five-country trip to Europe and the Middle East.
It says that Obama has taken 31 foreign trips totaling 119 days since assuming office in 2009.
At the same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had spent 116 days on 28 trips, while Bill Clinton had taken 27 journeys for 113 days. Ronald Reagan, after five years, had taken just 14 trips for 73 days, while Richard Nixon had taken 12 trips for 60 days.
Lyndon Johnson took 10 trips for 34 days at the half-decade mark, and Dwight Eisenhower took a mere eight trips, totaling 31 days, in his first five years.
The president's current trip, moreover, will include an estimated 29 hours of flying time on Air Force One.
He landed Monday in Amsterdam and will travel on to Brussels, Rome, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before returning to Washington.
Citing data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the study estimates hourly operating costs for the presidential jet as $228,288 — a 27 percent increase from $179,750 an hour just one year ago.
"The most internationally well-traveled president, through five years, is also flying the most expensive-to-operate Air Force One to date," the study states.
It estimates the flights alone will cost about $6,620,352.
"These figures are approximations and do not account for the additional (and likely greater) expenses of transporting the president's Secret Service and diplomatic entourage, backup aircraft, land vehicles, and advance security teams," the group adds.
Obama is attending a nuclear security summit in The Hague and an emergency meeting of Group of Seven leaders on Russia's annexation of Crimea.
"Taken on its own, the $48,535 jump [from Air Force One's 2013 hourly cost] may not sound all that significant," NTUF adds. "However, when trips are many thousands of miles and span several time zones and continents, the difference can quickly add up."
The group points out that Obama actually planned to spend even more time overseas. In October 2013 he was scheduled to spend eight days visiting Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brunei as part of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
However, he was obliged to cancel the trip due to the federal government shutdown that month. Instead, his December trip to South Africa to pay his respects to the late Nelson Mandela wrapped up his international travels for the year.
He began his latest overseas visit on Monday with a quick tour of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where he addressed the media while standing in front of "The Night Watch," Rembrandt's depiction of a group of 17th-century militiamen, The New York Times
Calling the work "easily the most impressive backdrop I've had for a press conference," he said that in addition to attending a two-day nuclear security summit, his trip will include consultations with allies about the fast-moving situation in Ukraine, according to the Times.
"Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people," he said.
The Times also reported that residents of The Hague, where the summit is being held, "were not universally delighted" by the presence of 53 heads of state and government, led by Obama.
"Much of the city has been closed off around the summit meeting venue," the Times reported. "Several businesses were asked to close or to have employees work from home. Tens of thousands of police officers and border guards have been deployed in the city, its surroundings, and on trains and other transport."
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