During his presidential transition process in 2016, Donald Trump published a tweet complaining about Boeing and the cost of a new Air Force One. The Republican, for reasons that have never been clear, insisted that “costs are out of control.” With the price tag for the project likely to top $4 billion, Trump said via Twitter, “Cancel order!”
The order, of course, was not actually canceled. Two months later, before his presidency had even reached the one-month mark, Trump returned to the subject, bragging about cutting the cost of the new Air Force One, though his boasts weren’t at all true.
Nevertheless, in July 2018, the president announced that he’d successfully negotiated “a good deal” on the project, saving taxpayers over a billion dollars on the new planes, which he said would now cost $3.9 billion.
Defense One reported yesterday that the figure Trump and the White House have touted for months isn’t the same figure that appears in the Department of Defense’s budget.
The cost of buying, equipping, and preparing to operate the two Boeing 747s that will become the next Air Force One presidential transport aircraft is now pegged at $5.3 billion, nearly one-third more than the figure routinely touted by the White House, according to Air Force officials and Pentagon budget documents.
The projected price tag – included in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal – marks the first time the Defense Department has provided a total cost estimate for the project. It includes not only the cost of the planes themselves, but also work to build a new hangar complex at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and other administrative, engineering, and development work.
“The total VC-25B acquisition cost … is $5.3B and encompasses all costs associated with fielding the system,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek wrote in an email Monday, referring to the new Air Force One by its military designation.
The article added that Air Force officials, at least in private, have long conceded that the White House’s figures were wrong. The difference is, the actual numbers are now in writing.
Looking ahead, if recent history is any guide, Donald Trump will continue to insist that he singlehandedly, taking advantage of how awesome his awesomeness is, saved American taxpayers a bundle by negotiating a lower cost for the Air Force One project.
But it won’t be true. He bragged about negotiating the price tag below $4 billion, but the Defense Department’s budget plan points to a price tag above $5 billion.
Postscript: We can probably also add this to the list of examples of Trump saying things about airplanes that don’t make any sense.