Donald Trump on Wednesday convened more than half a dozen top military officers, including for a discussion about “trying to bring costs down” on the controversial F-35 fighter jet and other high-priced Pentagon projects.
Trump heard directly for the first time from Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who runs the F-35 project, which the president-elect has repeatedly slammed for its “out of control” cost and repeated schedule delays. The Pentagon also brought along some props: models of the three versions of the F-35 under development for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.
As Trump escorted the military officials out, he told reporters his talks were “primarily the F-35, trying to get the costs down — a program that is very, very expensive.”
Trump met separately with Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Lockheed produces the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in history, and Boeing is the contractor for the new fleet of Air Force One, a project Trump has threatened to cancel due to its price tag.
Several of the generals and admirals who met with Trump also oversee nuclear weapons and strategy — a major flash point during the presidential campaign, when Trump’s opponents questioned whether he has the proper judgment to have authority to launch atomic arms.
The attendees included Vice Adm. James Syring, head of the Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear Integration; Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson; Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran; Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, commander of the Air Mobility Command; and Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, head of the the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The military discussions were held in two parts and included Trump’s pick to be his national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
“These are amazing people and I’m very impressed with them,” Trump, who criticized the top brass during the campaign, remarked after the meetings. “And they are good negotiators.”
One officer responded: “Thank you, sir.” A few also saluted Trump before departing the resort.
Asked about his meeting with Lockheed’s Hewson, Trump said: “We’re just beginning, it’s a dance.”
“It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the costs down [on the F-35] and we’re going to get it done beautifully,” he added.
Of his meeting with Boeing’s Muilenburg, Trump said, “I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the [Air Force One] program.”
Muilenburg told reporters that he had a “very productive” discussion with Trump and pledged Boeing would complete the two new presidential aircraft for less than Trump’s $4 billion estimate.
“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” he said.
Ellen Mitchell contributed to this report.
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