Even before taking office, Trump cited the presidential jet as a telling example of government waste, the kind that he was uniquely capable of dealing with as a world-class negotiator. In December of 2016, he tweeted, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
At a rally in Florida this month, Trump claimed to have made serious headway on the issue, lowering the price of Air Force One by more than $1 billion: “We've got that price down by over $1 billion and I probably haven't spoken for more than an hour on the project. I got the generals in who are fantastic … but I told Boeing that isn't good enough, the price is still too high.”
But according to Defense News, information released by the Defense Department this week indicates that the price for Air Force One – which is actually two identical 747 jets – hasn’t changed much at all, and the program is still expected to cost roughly $4 billion. The Pentagon document shows that Boeing has already been paid more than $1 billion for the airframes, and the Air Force expects to spend an additional $2.9 billion over the next five years to complete the planes. And while last year’s Air Force budget request claimed that $191 million had been saved on the project, this year’s budget fails to mention any savings.
Experts say the price of Air Force One is driven by the planes’ unique requirements, including, for example, hardening against nuclear blasts and the need to store 3,000 meals in case of an emergency. The only way to reduce the price is to change those requirements.
The Trump administration has made one significant change, eliminating the requirement that the planes have mid-air refueling capabilities. But Congress has raised questions about the move, which won’t cost or save anywhere near $1 billion in any event.