As the Secret Service prepares for the 2012 campaign, they’re purchasing two new buses, at least one of which will be used by President Barack Obama as he travels around the country, TPM has learned. The Secret Service says that while the armored vehicles will be used by Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign, they’ll be a security asset for future presidents as well.
“We’ve never been fully comfortable with the security provided by a bus we lease and then try to retro-fit,” Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin told TPM.
“This would be just like other vehicles we’re adding to our fleet,” Mackin said. “We’d use them for the campaign, but they’re not for campaign purposes. They would be part of our fleet — just like our limos, just like our follow-ups, just like our emergency vehicles.”
One of the buses will be available for use by the Republican presidential candidate as well. And they wouldn’t only be used on the campaign trail — the Secret Service said the multipurpose vehicles be useful whenever a protectee travels into rural areas.
“The reality is that we’re overdue for having this type of protective asset in our fleet,” Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told TPM. “We’ve had protectees in buses since at least 1980, Ronald Reagan, Gov. Reagan, was in a bus during the campaign. It’s overdue because designing our own vehicle really gave us a level of security which we don’t get when we lease a bus.”
In the past, the Secret Service has enhanced the security features of buses leased by presidential campaigns, and they say having their own secure buses that can be used during campaign trips just makes more sense.
“If we have a candidate who has leased a bus and we’re going to be protecting that candidate, we’re going to look to enhance the security of that vehicle,” Donovan said. “This is just the next step, and as I said, something that we’re overdue for.”
The cost of installing equipment, removing equipment and repairing the damage to the leased vehicles also factored into the Secret Service’s decision to purchase their own buses.
Mackin said the vehicles wouldn’t have any sort of campaign logos because they are government vehicles. The campaigns wouldn’t have to reimburse the Secret Service for use of the buses, said Donovan. They hope to get a ten-year shelf life out of the buses, and once they’re no longer ready for the road, they’ll be used at the Secret Service training facility, Mackin said.
Donovan said the vehicles are “almost at completion,” but said the Secret Service wasn’t releasing any information on what company was contracted to build the buses at this time.
Late update: Josh Gerstein takes a look at federal databases and thinks the Hemphill Brothers Coach Company of Whites Creek, Tenn. is providing the buses. The company’s $2.2 million contract doesn’t specify the number of vehicles.