The botched Manhattan Air Force One flyover photo-op that drew angry criticism from eyewitnesses all the way up to President Obama has now cost Louis Caldera, the director of the White House Military Office, his job. Caldera, who authorized the photo shoot that eyewitnesses said triggered 9/11 flashbacks, resigned this afternoon in a letter effective May 22.
"I have concluded that the controversy surrounding the Presidential Airlift Group's aerial photo shoot over New York City has made it impossible for me to effectively lead the White House Military Office," Caldera said in a letter to President Obama. "Moreover, it has become a distraction to the important work you are doing as President. After much reflection, I believe it is incumbent on me to tender my resignation and step down as Director of the White House Military Office."
Click here to read Caldera's letter.
Caldera's letter said that, as of today, he "will no longer be directing the affairs of the White House Military office and will no longer be involved in the work of the Office." The next two weeks will be spent "out-processing."
The White House said President Obama has accepted Caldera's resignation and has asked Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review the structure of the White House Military Office so that "such an incident never occurs again."
Caldera had previously apologized for the April 27 incident, saying, "Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. 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."
Also this afternoon, the White House released its internal internal review of the fiasco as well as a photo from the flyover involving an Air Force fighter jet and a Boeing 747 which is sometimes used as the president's plane. Earlier, White House officials had said they had planned not to release the photo since news of the incident broke last week.
The report of the incident, which cost over $328,000 in taxpayer dollars and frightened a broad swath of lower Manhattan, site of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers, and neighboring New Jersey, says Caldera "did not offer a coherent explanation" for why he didn't alert higher-ups about the Air Force One flyover. "He stated that it was not a conscious decision – he did not decide not to notify them," the report says. "Instead, he suggested that it may have been an oversight."
The plan for the photo op was first officially conveyed to the White House by Colonel Scott Turner of the Presidential Airlift Group on April 9, the report says. Turner emailed Deputy Director of the White House Military Office George Mulligan addressing a number of issues including a plan to conduct "a photo shoot over the Statue of Liberty on the 27th of this month." Mulligan and Turner spoke about the mission as well.
Mulligan says he told his boss, Caldera about the proposed flyover on April 20.