Official Who Approved Air Force One Flyover May Be Fired

By Michael D. Shear and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pointedly refused to rule out a firing in the case of the Air Force One backup's flight that terrified some in New York City on Monday.

Asked repeatedly whether White House Military Office Director Louis Caldera, who made the decision, would lose his job, Gibbs told reporters yesterday, "I think the president has rightly asked that a review of the situation and the decision-making" be done.

Gibbs reiterated that President Obama was "furious" about the decision, and he said the deputy chief of staff will conduct the review. The administration will take steps based on the outcome of the review, Gibbs said.

Caldera, who was secretary of the Army under President Bill Clinton, apologized quickly Monday afternoon, after reports of Obama's displeasure.

"Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," Caldera said in a statement. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

But the apology might not be enough to calm the furor over the flight, which was scheduled to allow Air Force officials to update the promotional photos of the presidential plane.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said at a briefing yesterday that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was "surprised and not very pleased" about what Morrell called the "flying photo op."

Air Force personnel and some Pentagon staffers had known of the flight, Morrell said, but he noted that the idea originated in the White House Military Office. He called the mission "mishandled" and "misguided."

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