President-elect Donald Trump called Tuesday for nixing a $4 billion order for next-generation Air Force One planes that he deemed too costly while also announcing a $50 billion investment pledge by a Japanese telecommunications firm that he said would create 50,000 American jobs.
Trump began his day with a tweet that declared “Cancel order!” after criticizing the price tag of the new presidential aircrafts to be manufactured by Chicago-based Boeing.
“The plane is totally out of control. It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump told reporters in rare and impromptu question-and-answer session at Manhattan’s Trump Tower. “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.”
Trump, who made his fortune as a real estate developer whose brand has international reach, later met for about 45 minutes with SoftBank Group Corp. chief executive Masayoshi Son.
He tweeted: “Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs . . . Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!”
But it remained unclear whether some or all of the investment was committed before Trump’s victory.
Softbank, which is based in Tokyo and includes Sprint Corp. as a subsidiary, had announced a tech investment fund in October with a $25 billion pledge from SoftBank and up to $45 billion from the government of Saudi Arabia. Son told the Wall Street Journal his pledge to Trump involves a $100 billion fund with Saudi Arabia and other partners.
Meanwhile, a Trump spokesman would not say whether the president-elect is aiming to renegotiate the Boeing contract or scrap it all together.
Jason Miller, transition communications director, also would not say whether Trump plans to use the current Air Force One planes or is holding out for less costly new aircrafts.
More details will be released after the Jan. 20 swearing-in, Miller said in a morning call with reporters.
“We’re going to look for areas where we can keep costs down and save money,” Miller said.
Asked about a 2013 tweet in which Trump said he bought Boeing stock and complimented it as a “great company,” Miller said the president-elect had sold off all his stock in June.
Boeing with a statement responded that it is currently under a $170 million government contract to “help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the president of the United States.”
The company indicated that there is flexibility to subsequent phases of program, saying it would work with the Air Force to “deliver the best planes for the president at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
The Air Force said it has budgeted $2.7 billion for research, development, test and evaluation, but expects “this number to change as the program matures with the completion of the risk-reduction activities.”
It said it was still conducting that research with Boeing in advance of “engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.”
The new Air Force One planes were not expected to be ready for use until at least 2023.