U.S. President-elect Donald Trump met on Wednesday with the chief executives of two major defense companies he has singled out for criticism over project costs, part of his push to save taxpayer money on high-profile contracts.
Since winning the Nov. 8 election, Trump has complained about the companies for costs he said are too expensive, sending defense shares tumbling.
READ MORE: Why did Donald Trump take a shot at Boeing?
“Trying to get the costs down, costs. Primarily the (Lockheed Martin) F-35, we’re trying to get the cost down. It’s a program that’s very, very expensive,” Trump told reporters after meeting with the CEOs and a dozen Pentagon officials involved with defense acquisition programs who he said were “good negotiators.”
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has vowed to address government procurement costs as part of his industrial policy, which also includes taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and renegotiating multilateral trade deals.
“It’s a dance, you know, it’s a little bit of a dance,” he said. “But we’re going to get the costs down and we’re going to get it done beautifully.”
Also on Wednesday, Trump named economist Peter Navarro, an economist who has urged a hard line on China, to head up his White House team on industrial policy
He also appointed billionaire investor Carl Icahn as a special adviser on regulatory issues, and said Icahn would help him choose the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Boeing’s Muilenburg, whose company was caught off guard by Trump’s broadside earlier this month on the costs for replacing aging Air Force One planes, called his meeting “productive” and spoke admiringly of Trump’s “business head-set.”
Trump has said Boeing’s costs to build replacements for Air Force One planes – one of the most visible symbols of the U.S. presidency – are too high and urged the federal government in a tweet to “Cancel order!”
Trump has said the planes, which are in the early stages of development and are not expected to be ready until 2024, would cost more than $4 billion. The company is currently under contract for $170 million to help develop plans for the planes.
“I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the price,” Trump said on Wednesday.
Muilenburg said he gave Trump a “personal commitment” that costs would not run out of control.
“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” the CEO said.
Trump has publicly pushed other corporations to change tack.
He has taken credit for forcing United Technologies Corp and Ford Motor Co to alter plans to outsource jobs abroad. Ford, however, said it had no plans to close any U.S. plants.
Hewson left the Mar-a-Lago meeting without speaking to reporters. Trump has said Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program was “out of control.”
The costs of the F-35s, used by the Marine Corps and the Air Force, and by six countries, have escalated to an estimated $400 billion, prompting it to be described as the most expensive weapon system in history.
Among the Defense Department officials who met with Trump was Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program chief for the Pentagon.