Bush first ex-prez to face limit on Secret Service protection

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 4, 2009 

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush's "after-life," as Laura Bush calls the post-presidency, is shaping up to be pretty comfortable, with a Dallas office, staffers, Secret Service protection, a travel budget, medical coverage and a $196,700 annual pension, all at taxpayers' expense.

However, Bush will be the first president not to benefit from one former lifetime benefit: Secret Service protection.

"He'll be the first one to receive it for 10 years," said Malcolm Wiley, Secret Service spokesman. Congress changed the law in the 1990s so that any president elected after Jan. 1, 1997, and his or her spouse will receive the federal protection for only 10 years.

The Bushes will move to their new $2 million, 8,500-square-foot Dallas home — not paid for by taxpayers — on Jan. 20, and there Bush will be close to his future presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

"We're working on a conceptual design for the building," said Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation. The president will help develop the $300 million structure, which will include a library, museum and policy institute.

Fundraising is just beginning, Langdale said. Once the project is finished in 2013, the National Archives and Records Administration will take over the operation of the library and museum, at federal expense. Construction will be paid for with private funds, and Bush is expected to be involved in organizing the fundraising drive.

"He is enthusiastic about spending a lot of his time and effort working on the programs of the institute," Langdale said.

Bush will maintain an office nearby in space acquired by the General Services Administration, which, under the Former Presidents Act, will pay for the office suite and staff to assist him for the rest of his life.

Bush's pension, which is tied to the base pay of the most senior government executives and increases with federal cost-of-living adjustments, will be about half the $400,000 annual presidential salary. He and Vice President Dick Cheney will receive transition expenses as well for seven months — one month before the inauguration and six months afterward — "to facilitate their transition to private life," according to the Congressional Research Service.

The GSA also covers travel expenses for any official activities attended by a former president, as well as two staff members. Former President Bill Clinton was allocated $50,000 for travel in fiscal year 2008 and former President George H.W. Bush, $56,000.

Former presidents and their families are entitled to health care in military hospitals, although they have to pay a reimbursement rate set by the Office of Management and Budget.

Bush will receive a state funeral upon his death, with full military honors for the former commander in chief.

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(e-mail: mrecio(at)mcclatchydc.com)

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