WASHINGTON, December 6, 2016 – Without the Presidential bells and whistles, including countermeasure technology, electrical systems the bill for a new Air Force One could easily get to the $4 Billion mark that Donald Trump says America can’t afford to spend.
And to millions of Americans, tired of out of control spending, to see a politician exercising the ability to say no to contracts we can’t afford, that is refreshing. Because we have all shaken our heads over spending $500,000 on a research project that puts shrimp on tiny underwater treadmills. Period.
But it might have more to do with Trump sending a message to corporations like Boeing, who is planning on opening a new plant in China, and Lockheed who is looking to open plants to build F-16 fighter jets in India, that Trump wants to keep America’s money and jobs in America.
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to target “waste, fraud and abuse” in government spending, and he said costs for the planes are “totally out of control.” Trump told reporters outside of Trump Tower “It’s going to be over $4 billion for (the) 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.”
The present plane was first put into the Presidential air fleet during the administration of President George H W Bush in 1990. Those planes were commissioned by Ronald Reagan. The Air Force One aircraft that President Obama currently uses are set to retire and contracts for $3 billion for new jets to replace the existing Boeing 747-8 jumbo jets was entered.
The decision to acquire new planes for the US president was announced in January 2015 . The jets are not expected to be completed until 2023, which if President Trump serves consecutive terms, will be delivered at the end of his administration.
“It’s way overdue. You can hang new engines on it, you can cram all sorts of new technology on it, but it’s still a very old airplane,” Joseph W Hagin, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush was quoted as saying in The New York Times.
What will America get for its investment? The longest plane in the world, the new Air Force One will measure 250 feet and it will be capable of resisting nuclear blasts and deflecting heat-seeking missiles. It will have a range of about 7,800 miles with a mid-air refueling system, besides all the latest technology.
Coming with a greater wing span, new engines and avionics, it will also provide a better fuel economy.
Boeing’s 747-8 is the only plane made in the United States that is able to meet the enhanced security, military communications equipment, enhanced crash safety elements, anti missile technology and the ability to refuel in the air, staying aloft for periods up to 24 hours at a time, that are all requirements for the presidential aircraft.
The president-elect said in a tweet Tuesday that the new Boeing () 747 jet that’s being built to carry “future presidents” already costs more than $4 billion, and that he wants to cancel the order. Trump alludes to the fact that Boeing is going to be held to cost controls.
And from experience, he might know what he is talking about. Donald Trump’s private Boeing 757 is the 8th most expensive planes in the world. Its price about $100 million. While Trump’s private jet does not have missile evading capabilities, it does have a lot of features including a bedroom, dining room and private guest room.
It does have one thing Air Force One might be missing – bathrooms with 24 karat gold fixtures! Trumps Boeing 757 has a complete video room with cinema system for inflight entertainment.
Trump is not saying why he believes the planes will cost “more than $4 billion.” Analysts are saying that the initial contract for Air Force One is $170 million, but that number does not include many of the costly state of the art enhancements, that could easily be subject to budget overruns.
Without knowing all the security features it is hard to give an estimated cost for the finished planes, a Boeing source added, and the Air Force isn’t even sure whether it wants two or three of the planes.
There is also the $93 million already spent to spec the planes on paper; money spent before manufacturing has even begun. In an official statement, Boeing reiterated that its current contract allows it “to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States.”
So far the Air Force has budgeted $2.9 billion through 2021 for two new Air Force Ones, which will replace the aging pair of blue, white and polished aluminum 747-200Bs serving the President. It is not hard to believe that another $1.1 billion in bells and whistles and cost overruns will be encountered to drive the price to, if not beyond, $4 billion.
Proof of that? Well urban legends and passed around stories provide some allegorical tales of government spending gone crazy, including the 1986 LA Times commentary “$37 screws, a $7,622 coffee maker, $640 toilet seats; suppliers to our military just won’t be oversold”
A handy book for any taxpayer is “The Pentagon Catalog” (Workman), which describes and shows diagrams of numerous pieces of military hardware that authors Christopher Cerf and Henry Beard describe as “ordinary products at extraordinary prices.”
They claim that their firm, Pentagon Products, can supply any of these items to anyone at the prices our military paid for them, and they boast, “We will not be oversold.”
Anyone who buys this paperback for $4.95 gets a $2,043 nut free.
The nut is glued to the inside of the back cover, in the upper right hand corner, and fits in a hole in the pages, so it goes through to the front.
This nut, which is described as “a plain round nut,” was made by McDonnell Douglas for the Navy at $2,043 each.
The book also lists a claw hammer sold by Gould Simulation Systems to the Navy for $435. In the picture it looks like the kind you can buy at any hardware store for $10.
Comparatively reasonable is McDonnell Douglas’ price of only $37 for a screw. It appears in every respect to be an ordinary screw, but the book points out.
Following Trump’s statement, Boeing said:
“We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller said.
“The point that the President-elect was making here was that a $4 billion price tag is a very big number, the taxpayers want to make sure we’re seeing absolute accountability and that the government is doing the best to drive costs down,” he said.
The planes do need to be replaced, as of the two jets in the fleet, one has been flying since Ronald Reagan was president, and the other was delivered in 1990 during George H.W. Bush’s administration. Both are getting increasingly expensive to fly and maintain. The new planes would be more fuel efficient.
Which might have saved taxpayers some money during the Obama administration who used Air Force One to travel to Hawaii for vacation on eight occasions (cost $4.8 million), Martha’s Vineyard ($619,011) and the his recent visit with his daughters and friends to see Hamilton in NYC ($309, 505) according to Fox New’s The Five host Eric Bolling.
President Obama did expressed concerns about cost overruns for a new set of presidential helicopters in 2009 calling a halt to the Pentagon’s contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop a new fleet of helicopters used to shuttle the President and other other government officials. The cost for that fleet had reached an estimated $11.2 billion, nearly twice the original $6.1 billion estimate.
In 2009, Sen. John McCain brought up the cost of the presidential helicopters:
“Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One. I don’t think that there’s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have — have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money,” McCain said.
President Obama response to that was that he had already spoken to [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates about the helicopter situation.
“The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me.,” the President said adding that “It is an — an example of the procurement process gone amok, and — and we’re going to have to fix it.”
The upgraded 747-8 can travel an additional 1,000 miles without refueling, fly faster with a heavier maximum takeoff weight and get better fuel economy than the 747-200 that’s used for the current Air Force Ones.
The Air Force has yet to place a formal order for the new planes, making it easy for President Trump to put the order on hold, at least for now. Building the basic planes would take about two years. A team of engineers and aircraft machinists would then add state of the art communications, missile avoidance systems, inflight refueling, VIP interior and protections from the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast.
And all that does take many years to accomplish.
Cancelling the order is not a company killer for Boeing, though it did see its stock prices drop following Trump’s comments. The company builds the 747 at its factories in Washington state, and it currently has a large back order for its commercial jets, especially the 787 Dreamliner.
And while airlines regularly cancel orders for planes, Boeing would lose prestige, along with the revenue, should the Air Force drop plans to build a new version of Air Force One. Boeing’s first presidential plane was used by Franklin Roosevelt back in 1943, and it has made every Air Force One since President John Kennedy.
But it has recently been criticized by Trump for both its deal to sell commercial jets to Iran and its decision to open a factory in China to finish passenger cabins on planes purchased by Chinese airlines.
With a tweet, Donald Trump has placed all government contract recipients on notice,
Interesting to the story is that recently retired Boeing CEO Jim McNerney was named to an all-star team of corporate executives who will advise Trump on jobs and the economy. Also noteworthy is that Trump held between $50,000 to $100,000 worth of Boeing stock, according to a financial disclosure from June of this year. Trump spokesman Miller confirms that Trump sold all his publicly-traded stock that same month.