Trump presses Lockheed, Boeing on airplane contracts
President-elect Donald Trump pressured two of the country’s biggest aerospace companies to cut costs on their government contracts, winning a commitment from Boeing to lower the price tag on a new Air Force One but finding the going tougher with Lockheed Martin and the F-35 fighter jet.
“It’s a little bit of a dance,” Mr. Trump reported after meeting with Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson, though he predicted he will eventually be successful. “We’re going to get the costs down and we’re going to get it done beautifully.”
During the campaign, he said there was plenty of waste to be rooted out in federal spending, and the F-35 and a replacement Air Force One have both emerged as top targets in the early going after the election.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg emerged from his meeting with Mr. Trump to say he’d find a way to bring the project in below the $4 billion cost, which Mr. Trump had complained earlier this month as “out of control.”
“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” said Mr. Muilenburg. “I was able to give the president-elect my personal commitment on behalf of the Boeing Company. This is a business that’s important to us. We work on Air Force One because it’s important to our country and we’re going to make sure that he gets the best capability and that it’s done affordably.”
Mr. Muilenburg was also complimentary of Mr. Trump, saying “he’s a good man. And he’s doing the right thing.”
The new plane isn’t expected to be ready until 2022 — well after the next election.
Mr. Trump, in a Dec. 6 Twitter post, had suggested it wasn’t needed.
“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Shares of Boeing stock dropped sharply after the tweet, but recovered later that day.
The same fate happened to Lockheed after Mr. Trump blasted the cost of the F-35, calling it “out of control.”
The plane, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is supposed to be the main replacement for the various services’ existing fleets of combat aircraft.
But the program has been embattled for years, coming in over budget and behind schedule in the early-going. The first run of some 2,400 planes is expected to cost nearly $400 billion, or almost double initial estimates.
The plane has also had a fleetwide grounding in 2014 after engine troubles, and the government’s main watchdog has repeatedly warned of potential cost overruns in the future.
Mr. Trump met in Florida on Wednesday with Pentagon officials and with Ms. Hewson, the Lockheed chief, about the plane. In brief remarks to reporters he said the program was “very, very expensive.”
He indicated negotiations with Ms. Hewson did not produce any immediate results, saying “we’re just beginning.”
Ms. Hewson did not stop to speak with reporters as she left the meeting.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg emerged from his meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump to say he’d find a way to bring cost of a new Air Force One in below the $4 billion projected.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson met with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss the costs of her company’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but did not commit to lowering the price tag.