The US President’s $2,614 Per Minute Transport System

This is a Wendover Productions video made
possible by Squarespace—get your domain before its gone with Squarespace. Moving the president of the United States
from one location to another is a logistical nightmare that happens every single day. The American president is one of the most
powerful persons in the world and there is no time when the president is more exposed
than when they’re in transport. Two of the four successful assassinations
of American presidents were when they were traveling—Garfield and Kennedy. For that reason, the secret service devotes
an enormous amount of resources to ensuring the president gets from one place to another
safely. The presidential motorcade is perhaps the
most impressive method of transportation. It includes up to 40 or 50 vehicles and over
100 people. Let’s take a look at some footage of a motorcade. This is the lead car, or in this case, motorcycle. As the name suggests, it’s job is to lead
the motorcade, but it’s not actually the first vehicle. What we don’t see here is the route car
which would’ve come through about five minutes before the lead car. The route car is always followed by about
20-30 motorcycles which play the essential role of clearing the route of cars. When driving on a highway, they’ll speed
ahead and close exits so that no cars can come on the highway, although they have to
use a different technique in cities. When driving in DC, where other drivers are
used to frequent motorcades, the motorcycles often drive in a “V” pattern pushing cars
to the side to clear the way for the motorcade. This leads to a disruption of only two or
three minutes. Outside of DC, drivers are less used to motorcades
so the motorcycles will typically completely block off the intersecting streets to create
one continuous clear path for the president. The entire first section of the motorcade
isn’t actually run by the secret service—its run by the local police jurisdiction of wherever
the president is. The fewer secret service cars and individuals
needed for motorcades the better since both the cars and agents need to travel to wherever
the president is visiting in advance which is, of course, incredibly expensive. The next part of the motorcade is what’s
known as the secure package. It’s the essential core to the motorcade
because its the group of cars that directly secures the president. In case of attack, this group of cars can
detach from the rest of the motorcade and function as an independent unit. The most important car in the secure package
is the president’s limo but one can never be sure which one that is because there are
always two limos. These two limos are identical—they even
have the same license plate. That way an attacker can’t, for example,
have a spotter tell them which car the president left their origin in. The limos themselves are no ordinary limos. They weigh between 15,000 and 20,000 pounds
and are built on a modified truck bed. The entire car is bulletproof including 5
inch thick bulletproof windows. The only window that can open is the drivers
window, reportedly so they can pay tolls. The entire car is hermetically sealed to protect
the president from a chemical attack and onboard are rocket powered grenades, night vision
optics, a tear gas cannon, pump-action shotguns, bottled oxygen, and two pints of the president’s
blood type. This car, leading the secure package, is the
United States Secret Service Electronic Countermeasures Suburban. It leads the secure package because its purpose
is to jam any remote activated explosives along the route. These two tall antennas do that by sending
out a huge range of radio frequencies that would block any bomb activation signal. The two domes on top of the car are most likely
what’s known as electronic warfare sensors. They’re essentially radars that can detect
when a rocket propelled grenade or anti-tank guided missile is launched. When it detects a launch, the car would most
likely activate a number of smoke grenades spread out throughout the secure package which
would help throw off the grenade or missile, but of course this is all classified so that’s
speculation. This car is the control car. It carries the most essential staff like the
president’s military aide and doctor. In the event of an attack, they’re both
essential to the president so they break off with the secure package. These last two cars are both filled with secret
service agents. The closer one is called the halfback. It carries the president’s personal secret
service detail. These are the agents that are on the president’s
person at all times. The second one is the CAT car—the Counter-Assault
Team. You can always identify these cars since they’re
the ones with the back window open. That’s because the agents are sitting in
rear-facing seats with automatic weapons, ready to respond to threats. While its hard to see, you can just make out
the counter-assault team in this car in black battle dress uniforms and the president’s
secret service detail in this car in coat and tie. In the event of an attack, the president’s
secret service detail is in charge of shielding and evacuating the president while the counter-assault
team would generally stay and repel the attack. These vans following the secure package are
full of the press pool reporting on the president. This car is called the ID car and the secret
service agents inside are the ones that communicate with outside counter-surveillance teams that
proactively identify any threat to the motorcade. This black truck is the Hazardous Materials
Mitigation Unit. It has equipment and personnel who can identify
and respond to chemical, nuclear, or biological attacks on the motorcade. Continuing on, you can see more press vans. These motorcycles are speeding by the side
because, now that the motorcade has passed the exit that they were blocking off, they
are going to the front of the motorcade to block off more exits. This car is called the roadrunner. It has a number of antennas on top to act
as a mobile communications center. It connects the motorcade to the outside world
through satellite and internet communications systems. Following this is a generic ambulance in case
of injury to any person in the motorcade. Like the police officers at the front of the
motorcade, this ambulance just comes from the local fire department of wherever the
president is. This last secret service car is the support
car which carries more secret service agents and essential staff members. Lastly, these three police cars are there
to make sure that, now that the exits are open again, no car speeds up and enters the
motorcade from behind. It’s important to note that this is just
the standard motorcade configuration. It often changes based on the environment. When President Obama visited Iraq in 2009,
for example, his motorcade looked like this. Military humvees led a convoy of identical
suburbans—one of which carried the president. On top of the cars were more powerful versions
of the anti-RPG antennas found on the normal Electronic Countermeasures Suburban. So, motorcades are incredibly efficient. It’s been reported that motorcades have
made the trip between Laguardia airport and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan in
8-10 minutes. That’s a 10 mile drive that takes a normal
driver 25-30 minutes. Although, the safest motorcade is still no
motorcade since its the most exposed the president ever is so the secret service will typically
only use motorcades for trips up to 30 minutes long. Motorcades are also incredibly logistically
difficult and expensive, so whenever possible, the president will travel on Marine One. Marine one isn’t actually the name of a
specific helicopter, it’s rather the callsign used by any helicopter with the president
onboard. The Marine Corps operates 35 total helicopters
of a few different types as Marine One’s which might seem like overkill, but these
helicopters are often also used to transport the Vice President—when they’re known
as Marine Two—or government VIP’s. While Marine One is occasionally used to transport
the president from point to point, its most frequent mission is to bring the president
from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base. The presidents planes are based at Andrews
Air Force Base so this 12 mile trip is how the president starts and finishes any long-distance
trip. Much like the president’s limo, Marine One
never flies alone. Right after take off, its met by as many as
five other identical helicopters which shuffle positions in flight to throw off potential
attackers. Air Force One is also not a particular aircraft
but rather the callsign used whenever the president is aboard an Air Force aircraft. Typically, the role is served by one of two
modified Boeing 747’s. To give you a sense of how efficient this
entire transport system is, let’s time a trip from the White house to UN Headquarters
in New York. The 12 mile flight to Andrews Air Force Base
takes about 8 minutes on Marine One, then, upon arrival, the president steps onboard
Air Force One. The president is always the last person to
step on Air Force One, so the second he’s there the door closes and the aircraft taxies
for takeoff. That means there’s about 5 minutes between
touchdown of Marine One and take off of Air Force One. From there it’s about a 30 minute flight
to JFK airport in New York followed by a 7 minute trip on Marine One to Downtown Manhattan
Heliport, then a 6 minute motorcade up FDR Drive to the United Nations. That means that, if everything goes perfectly,
including transfer times, it will take almost exactly one hour for the president to go from
stepping out of the White House to stepping inside the United Nations. And what is the cost of this hour long trip? Well its public information that Air Force
One costs an estimated $206,337 per flight hour, so this half hour flight costs $103,169,
but of course we need to include Marine One. Marine One by itself is actually fairly inexpensive
to operate. While we don’t know its exact operating
cost, one of the helicopters often used as Marine One is the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
which costs $2,199 per flight hour. But of course Marine One always flies in formation
with up to 5 other helicopters. Per helicopter, a quarter hour of flight time
costs $530 or $3,180 total. The motorcade’s cost for the short trip
is fairly minuscule, so we’ll leave it out for simplicity. But the helicopters and cars need to get to
New York, and this is done by loading them up on a C-5 Galaxy cargo plane which costs
$100,941 per flight hour or $50,471 for the half hour trip to New York. Altogether, that’s $156,820 for the hour
long trip to New York or $2,614 per minute, and keep in mind the president needs to travel
back too. Ultimately, transportation of the President
costs the American taxpayer about $350,000,000 per year—roughly 1/4 of the $1.4 billion
yearly white house budget. This is certainly a steep price, but many
would argue that its a small price to pay to keep the most powerful person in the world
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