President Donald Trump claims that his intervention forced Lockheed Martin to reduce the cost of its F-35 airplane to the Pentagon, but the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee says that’s not true.
Earlier this week, Trump asserted that his negotiating pressure had knocked $600 million off the costs of a deal, formally announced Friday, for 90 of the jets. At Friday’s White House news briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the president’s handiwork had saved taxpayers $455 million. Trump had tweeted in December that program costs were “out of control,” and summoned Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson to a meeting.
But Pentagon officials, who’ve long bargained to reduce costs of the massive F-35 order, announced before that meeting took place that Lockheed would bring down costs for the 90-jet order by more than $500 million. That move followed the Pentagon’s decision before November’s election to invoke a provision of its contract to unilaterally impose cost-cuts on Lockheed.
After Trump’s $600 million claim earlier this week, Lockheed offered a statement of appreciation that Trump had recognized “the positive progress we’ve made on the F-35 program.” After Spicer took credit for the president Friday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Armed Services Democrat, responded more bluntly.
“This is simply taking credit for what’s been in the works for many months,” Reed told CNBC in a telephone interview. “These are savings that would have happened anyway.”