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Trump Vows to Cut Costs of New Military Jets

  • Ken Schwartz

President-elect Donald Trump was "very impressed" with Dennis Muilenburg after meeting with the Boeing CEO in Palm Beach, Florida, Dec. 21, 2016.

President-elect Donald Trump met the heads of two major airplane builders, vowing to bring down the costs of multibillion-dollar government defense contracts.

The chief executive officers of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, along with several generals and admirals, met with Trump Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump had said last week that the cost of Lockheed's F-35 stealth fighter jets — one of the most technologically advanced aircraft ever built — is "out of control" — $379 billion for about 2,500 planes.

Talking costs with CEOs

He also threatened to cancel a Boeing order for replacing the presidential jet Air Force One, also complaining that it is too expensive — $4 billion for one plane.

Trump said the purpose of Wednesday's meetings were simply “trying to get the costs down.”

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson arrives at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, Dec. 21, 2016.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson arrives at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, Dec. 21, 2016.

He called his talks with Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson “a little bit of a dance” and said he was “very impressed” with his conversation with Boeing's Dennis Muilenburg.

Although no conclusions were apparently reached Wednesday, all sides agreed that a deal must be struck — Trump does not want to spend so much money and the two companies do not want to lose those lucrative government contracts.

Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, departs on a rainy Dec. 6, 2016, from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, departs on a rainy Dec. 6, 2016, from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

'Flying White House'

The U.S. Marines and Air Force and six countries use the F-35, which is designed to fly at super speeds while avoiding enemy radar. Experts say it is the most expensive weapons system ever built.

“The F-35 is a critical program to our national security and I conveyed our continued commitment to delivering an affordable aircraft to our U.S. military and our allies,” Lockheed's Hewson said.

Air Force One is not only the president's official plane, it is designed to be used as a "flying White House" in case of a calamity, such as a nuclear attack on Washington. The current presidential jet, a Boeing 747, needs replacing.

Boeing's Muilenburg said he gave Trump a “personal commitment” that the cost of a new one will not get out of control.

An F-35 arrives at it new operational base, Sept. 2, 2015, at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah.
An F-35 arrives at it new operational base, Sept. 2, 2015, at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah.

Icahn joins Trump team

Also Wednesday, Trump announced he has named billionaire investor and businessman Carl Icahn as his special advisor on regulatory reform.

The post is not an official government job, but Trump calls him “a brilliant negotiator,” adding “his help on the strangling regulations that our country is faced with will be invaluable.”

Trump says the “750 billion hours” business owners spend dealing with paperwork to comply with government regulations is excessive and takes away from time they can use to create jobs. He says regulations cost the economy $1 trillion, but it is unclear how that number was calculated.

Officials say regulations are essential for ensuring health and safety and to protect consumers from fraud and other unethical business practices.

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