Cutting White House Tours Will Save $2 Million
By Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Lesa Jansen, CNN
(CNN) — The U.S. Secret Service told CNN Thursday that the plan to end all White House public tours beginning March 9 will help the agency save $74,000 per week.
This accounts for the costs of paying 37 uniformed officers $50 an hour for 40 hours a week to secure the tour’s route through the White House East Wing.
That adds up to roughly $2 million between March 9 and the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30, which is the time period over which $85 billion needs to be cut from across the federal government’s entire operating budget.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, the Secret Service needs to cut $84 million from a remaining budget of roughly $1.6 billion, meaning that ending public tours of the White House only represents a small fraction of the reductions the agency will have to achieve if forced spending cuts known as ‘sequestration’ remain in effect.
A Secret Service official confirmed that the agency’s protective duties will not be affected by the budget cuts. So in order to reach the mandated levels of spending reduction, the official said that the agency is considering reducing travel, delaying or canceling equipment purchases and even furloughing employees.
“The Secret Service, like other agencies of government is affected by the sequester,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his Thursday press briefing. “And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would unfortunately have to temporarily suspend these tours.”
Critics of the Obama administration were vocal in their opposition to the White House announcement, with many Republicans claiming that the move to cancel tours was a political attempt to make the forced budget cuts as painful as possible for the public. House Speaker John Boehner even quickly issued a statement assuring that tours of the U.S. Capitol would remain open despite the cuts.
“While I’m disappointed the White House has chosen to comply with sequestration by cutting public tours, I’m pleased to assure you that public tours of the United States Capitol will continue,” the statement said.
Security for Capitol tours is overseen by the Capitol Police, which must cut $17 million from a budget roughly one-fifth the size of the Secret Service’s budget.