Boeing CEO touts ‘progress’ with Trump on Air Force One costs

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The head of Boeing said Tuesday he and President-elect Donald Trump made progress on reducing the cost of the next generation of Air Force One planes in their second meeting since Trump slammed the program on Twitter.

“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters after meeting with Trump, according to the pool report. “All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there.”

In December, Trump tweeted that costs for the new Air Force One are “out of control” and threatened to cancel the program.

{mosads}It was the first in what’s become a pattern of Trump calling out defense contractors on Twitter. Shortly after the Air Force One tweet, Trump tweeted that costs for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program were also “out of control.”

Muilenburg met with Trump later in December and promised to keep the program below the $4 billion Trump claims it will cost.

On Tuesday, Muilenburg said a deal with Trump would be finalized in the “very near term.”

“I think we’re making great progress, so I’m very encouraged by today’s progress,” he said. “I think it’ll be in the very near term. And again, we’re on the same page to provide the best capability for the lowest cost.”

In January 2016, Boeing won the contract to replace the current Air Force One jets, which began flying in the early 1990s.

The initial contract was worth $25.8 million, but the Air Force planned on spending as much as $1.65 billion on two new planes, which are scheduled to be ready in 2023.

Meanwhile, a Government Accountability Office report from last March put the cost at about $3.2 billion.

Officials have said the high cost comes from needing to meet security requirements, such as secure communications and antimissile defenses.

In tweets, Trump also pitted Boeing against rival Lockheed, saying that he asked Boeing to price out an F-18 that’s comparable to the F-35.

The F-18 is a fourth-generation plane and does not have the capabilities that define the fifth-generation F-35, including stealth. Experts have said that if Trump is serious about redesigning the F-18, that could mean years of development and billions of dollars.

Muilenberg said he and Trump also discussed fighter aircraft Tuesday.

“We were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our war fighters most affordably,” Muilenberg said of the fighter jets.

Asked whether Trump’s tweets are the right way to negotiate business, Muilenberg said Trump is doing a good job engaging with industry.

“I think Mr. Trump is doing a great job with engaging the business,” he said. “We’re all on the same page here. Our objective is to provide the best capability for our country most affordably. We want to generate jobs in the U.S.”

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