President-elect Donald Trump has long since flown in a private jet bearing his name. On Tuesday morning he took to Twitter to criticize an existing pending order for a $4bn upgrade of Air Force One, saying it would cost too much.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump picked up on the contract with Boeing. Although he would not be scheduled to fly on it until his potential second term, there is a possibility he would just rather keep flying on his own 757, charged by his company to the taxpayer of course.
Air Force One is over 4,000 square feet with offices and bedrooms for the president, but it is not filled with gold-plated features like Trump’s plane.
However, the Secret Service and the Defence Department are likely to object to Trump keeping his own airplane, Air Force One carries a plethora of top-secret communications gear for both day-to-day business and managing a global crisis. Plus of course the numerous never discussed security features.
Costing $180,000 per hour to fly, and billions of dollars to construct, Air Force One has long been an icon of Presidential Power. All Presidents have repeatedly stated that they would miss flying on it after they leave office. It is well known around the world, providing the backdrop for the president’s arrival in foreign lands.
The current Air Force One, commissioned by President Ronald Regan and delivered by his successor President George Bush, is in need of an upgrade. The 2023 upgrade would have meant a plane that is more powerful, technologically advanced and able to travel further.
However, given Trump’s comments, it remains to be seen if the plans will take flight.
Trump’s main argument is that Boeing is charging too much for the plane. In keeping with his pre-election opines, he appears to be negotiating a better price.
“The plane is totally out of control,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
Last week, Mr. Trump announced a new panel of corporate advisers, called the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. One member of that panel is W. James McNerney Jr., the former chairman and chief executive of Boeing.
Some are impressed.
A regular 747 costs $357M, so Air Force One, very specially equippd, shd cost $700M. O was spending $4B. Trump just saved us $3,300,000,000. pic.twitter.com/Q9qm9p9Ayf
— Philip Schuyler (@FiveRights) December 6, 2016
Trump says cancel expensive new AirForceOne.
Pentagon’s own study finds $100 billion plus in waste.
Maybe now we focus on spending
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) December 6, 2016
Boeing have since come out with a statement making no reference to Trump or his comments, saying that it remained committed to proceeding with the upgrade.
“We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the president of the United States,” said the statement.
“We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the president at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
But not everyone buys that Trump is just out to save money.
I have searched everywhere. I cannot find anything saying there was a $4B cost overrun in 3wk old Air Force One contract. Trump made it up.
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 6, 2016
Trump tweeted about Air Force One 22 minutes after Boeing said it was concerned about his policies. And he lied about the $4B cost. Sad!
— Christian Greco (@Jolly_Esquire) December 6, 2016
Trump was quick to use this Air Force One announcement to capitalise on existing populist outrage:
The wasteful Pentagon
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has buried an internal study that brought to light $125 billion in administrative waste.
The purpose for hiding? They are afraid Congress would use these findings to slash the defence budget.
Initially the study was commissioned to help make the Pentagon’s back office bureaucracy more efficient and re-invest those savings in combat power. However, the study found much more wasteful spending than expected so senior officials moved swiftly to criticize it and suppress the results.
Data showed that the Defence Department was paying 1,014,000 contractors, civilian and uniformed personnel to fill back office jobs supporting just 1,3 million troops on active duty. A staggering number.
This kind of cost-cutting study is something Trump might be receptive to as he has long promised a major military build up financed by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks”.
Pentagon reports can be read here.