Trump presses Lock­heed, Boe­ing on air­plane con­tracts

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER AND STEPHEN DINAN

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

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.

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