President-elect Donald Trump met with the CEOs of top aerospace firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin as well as a group of top Pentagon brass on Wednesday as part of an apparent campaign to trim the fat from military weapons programs.
The effort already appears to be paying off. The meeting with Boeing head Dennis Muilenburg elicited a personal promise that the company would deliver a new Air Force One presidential aircraft for less than $4 billion – the figure that led Trump to slam the program for "out of control" costs in a now-infamous tweet.
“We’re going to get it done for less than that and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenburg said after the meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to video posted by the Associated Press. “I was able to give the President-elect my personal commitment on behalf of the Boeing company.”
Speaking with reporters after a separate meeting with top Pentagon leaders at Mar-a-Lago the same day, Trump vowed again to cut “tremendous amounts of money off the price” of the new Air Force One, saying he thought his conversation with Muilenburg was productive.
Trump explicitly called out Lockheed's controversial F-35 as well – another program he has criticized in recent weeks for “out of control” costs.
“We’re trying to get costs down, primarily the F-35,” Trump said. “That program is very, very expensive.”
Asked whether he got any concessions from Lockheed on the price of the fifth-generation fighter in his earlier meeting with CEO Marilyn Hewson, Trump said negotiations are “just beginning,” but promised to reduce costs on the aircraft.
“It’s a dance, it’s a little bit of a dance,” he said. “But we’re going to get the costs down and we’re going to get it done beautifully.”
Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the chief of the F-35 Joint Program Office, was one of the generals to meet with Trump on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
The meetings also included Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran, U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Mobility Command Chief Gen. Carlton Everhart, Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. James Syring, Air Force nuclear weapons chief Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, along with several other Pentagon acquisition officials, according to a pool report.
Trump praised the Pentagon leaders, calling them “amazing people, I’m very impressed with them.”
“And good negotiators, too,” he added.