One head has rolled as a result of the Air Force photo op fiasco: Louis Caldera, head of the White House Military office has resigned, the White House announced late Friday in its conclusion of a review of the event.
The photo was taken during a supposed flight-training mission to update the file photos of the president's 747 over the Statue of Liberty. In addition to the review, the White House released one photograph from the botched publicity stunt.
The seven page report indicates that Caldera did not notify the appropriate people within the White House. "Ultimately, the director (Louis Caldera) did not notify Messers Messina (Jim, deputy White House Chief of Staff) or Gibbs (the White House Press Secretary) about the flyover," reads the report, "when asked why he failed to do so, he (Caldera) did not offer a coherent explanation. He stated that it was not a conscious decision - he did not decide not to notify them. Instead, he suggested that it may been an oversight. He noted that the Deputy Director had not told him (and he did not understand) that Air Force One would be flying over lower Manhattan at a very low altitude. He then stated that people frequently recommended that he notify Mr. Messina about certain events. Sometimes they are right; sometimes they are wrong. Finally, the director state that he was not asked to approve the flight."
In a separate statement, the White House says, "the President has asked his Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Defense Secretary Gates or his designee to jointly review the organizational structure of the White House Military Office and the reporting relationship of its components to the White House and the Air Force, and to make recommendations to him to ensure that such an incident never occurs again.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) earlier this week in response to the Senator's inquiry about the matter. "I am concerned that this highly public and visible mission did not include an appropriate public affairs plan nor adequate review and approval by senior Air Force and DoD officials," wrote Gates.
The aircraft is referred to as Air Force One whenever the president is aboard, which he was not, when the flight occurred on April 27th. In his letter to McCain, Secretary Gates points out that "no non-duty personnel or passengers" were on board the flight.
The total cost of the flight was approximately $328,835. The Air Force says the training mission hours would have been flown regardless and that the expenses would have been accrued on a different mission.