Most presidents don’t come to the White House with their own plane in hand, preferring to use the well-appointed Air Force One planes that come with the office. But not President-elect Donald Trump, who is already doing things differently.
Mr. Trump announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he would cancel the current Air Force One contract with Boeing, due to costs that he called “out of control.”
“I think this really speaks to the president-elect’s focus on keeping costs down across the board with regard to government spending,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a call with reporters, as The Washington Post reported. “I think people are really frustrated with some of the big price tags that are coming out for programs, even in addition to this one. So we’re going to look for areas where we can keep costs down and look for ways where we can save money.”
Boeing won their current contract in January 2015, when it was the only company that could provide an American-built plane (the 747-8) that met the requirements for Air Force One. Trump alleges that the plane will cost $4 billion, although CNN reports that Boeing's contract is worth just $170 million.
When asked to explain his tweet, Trump told reporters that $4 billion for a plane was beyond reasonable, saying, “The plane is totally out of control. 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.”
This is not the first time Trump has targeted Air Force One, speaking up about its cost several times on the campaign trail, and complaining that President Obama used the plane to fly to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign events.
Trump’s proponents say that this is just one of the president-elect’s many plans to save money and help the American people.
Detractors note, however, that Trump’s decision to cancel the deal does not impact him: the new Air Force One planes are not due for delivery until the mid 2020s, and will most likely be used by the president who follows Trump, at the earliest.
The current planes, however, are getting old. They are approximately 30 years old, a bit elderly to be carrying the nation’s top brass.
Some officials say that Trump’s budgetary decisions could be harmful in the long term, and that it will be increasingly difficult to keep the current Air Force One plane updated with the appropriate technology.
“Air Force One has unique communications, safety and self-protection features so that the president can function under the most trying circumstances – like nuclear war,” defense consultant Loren Thompson told The Washington Post.
Mr. Thompson said that the cost of the planes was dictated by the necessity to outfit them for any possibility.