Trump Did Not Influence Military Contracts, Pentagon’s Top Arms Buyer Says
But he was interested in the new Air Force One’s paint job.
President Trump, despite his keen interest in a number of high-profile, multibillion-dollar military contracts, did not influence the Defense Department projects, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said Tuesday.
“The President had a lot of interest on a few programs. I don't think he influenced the programmatics,” Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, said during a Tuesday call with reporters.
Even before Trump moved into the White House, he had begun to criticize a multibillion-dollar effort to buy and customize two Boeing 747 aircraft to be used as Air Force One. He was also critical of the high-priced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a Lockheed Martin-built plane with a history of delays and cost overruns.
Lord said she attended an Oval Office meeting with Trump to discuss the new Air Force One aircraft, but that the president’s main concern was the color of the planes.
“Frankly, [he] was focused on performance and the look of the aircraft, the color scheme, and so forth,” Lord said.
In July 2019, Axios first reported Trump wanted a new paint job for the presidential aircraft, the first change to the iconic blue paint scheme used on presidential aircraft since the Kennedy administration. He prominently displayed a model of the new Air Force One, sporting a red, white and blue paint job, in the Oval Office. In 2018, he boasted, misleadingly, that his negotiations with former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg saved taxpayers $1 billion — a figure later revised upward to $1.4 billion, though key numbers remain obscured to the public.
Asked on Tuesday the status of the new Air Force One project, Lord said: “I don't hear about it. That means it’s executing well.”
Boeing is converting two Boeing 747-8 airliners — built for a Russian airline that never picked them up — to the highly unique Air Force One configuration in San Antonio, Texas. A U.S. president is expected to fly in one of the new planes no sooner than 2024.
Asked if there was presidential influence in a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft last year, Lord simply responded: “No.” Amazon, one of the companies that was not selected for the $10 billion deal, has challenged the decision in court, arguing that Trump interfered in the deal.