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First Official Presidential Bus Makes Its Debut

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President Barack Obama waves to people in Decorah, Iowa, Aug. 15, 2011, during a three-day bus tour in the Midwest focusing on ways to grow the economy.President Barack Obama debuted the new presidential bus — the first one ever — on Monday, as he began a three-day trip in the Midwest. The $1.1 million bus with an all-black exterior was ordered by the Secret Service and is equipped with the same security features as the presidential Cadillac (“The Beast”), plus many of the communication features found on Air Force One.

The bus is part of the protective fleet the Secret Service uses to transport officials, dignitaries, presidential candidates, and other protectees. It’s driven by Secret Service agents and other federal officials who have special training and commercial bus drivers licenses. The CIA ordered a second bus as well, for use by whoever becomes the Republican candidate for President. The buses were built by Hemphill Brothers Co. of Nashville, TN, which would not reveal the security features or what the bus looks like on the inside.

NPR‘s Ari Shapiro reports:

Nearly every part of a presidential vehicle is built from scratch, says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service. ‘Doors, for example, are 5 inches thick. The windows are totally bulletproof. It has its own supply of oxygen, tires that can’t be punctured with a bullet.’

‘Agents will be taught to back up at very high rates of speed using just the mirrors on either side,’ says Kessler. ‘It really takes guts to do that.’

And ABC News reporter Ann Compton (who suggests nicknaming the bus “the behemoth”) writes:

… [S]ome of Obama’s travel companions, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the interior is ‘subdued,’ and that the president has been using the front seating area, which has two chairs and a sofa, for some parts of his travel and two other groupings of four chairs farther back in the bus for others.

There are plenty of telephones on board, a few flat-screen TVs, but not a lot of privacy, people familiar with the bus said. And, they say, there is none of the glamour of music-star tour buses, which often feature bedrooms, kitchens and elaborate decor.

Last April, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told ABC News that the bus purchases were long overdue. Previously, the security agency had to make do with renting buses and outfitting them for added security and then removing the temporarily added features before returning the buses.

Writing about the presidential bus, David Usborne, U.S. Editor of The Independent, says:

It features windows and armour plating sufficient to repel a rocket propelled grenade…

The result is a presidential bus that is almost sinister, the only colour coming from its red and blue flashing hazard lights. ‘If I saw that thing, I’d drive right off the road, get out my car, and beg the Lord for mercy,’ notes Keith Koffler, a veteran White House reporter who runs a blog, ‘I fully expect Obama to get off the bus and instead of kissing babies say to them, “Luke, I am your father”.’

Image by Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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