Former President Donald Trump, R, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, L, sit behind a model of the next Air Force One, with colors chosen by Trump, in December 2009. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
Jan. 20 (UPI) — Former President Donald Trump had no influence on high-profile defense contracts, Ellen Lord, outgoing Pentagon undersecretary of defense acquisition, said.
In a conference call on Tuesday, Lord said that despite Trump’s public statements critical of high prices and cost overruns, notably involving the F-35 fighter plane, “the President had a lot of interest on a few programs.”
“I don’t think he influenced the programmatics. What he was interested in was the presidential aircraft [a customized Boeing 747]. I was in the Oval [Office] for a meeting on that. But he, frankly, was focused on performance and the look of the aircraft, the color scheme and so forth,” Lord said on the call.
Trump chose a red, white and blue color scheme for the exterior of the plane, similar to planes of the bankrupt Trump Airlines.
In 2017, Trump falsely claimed he personally intervened with former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and lowered the cost of a replacement for Air Force One by one billion dollars.
Lord also denied that Trump’s influence was exerted in a $10 billion, 10-year cloud-computing contract awarded in 2019 to Microsoft, over Amazon Web Services, a company owned by Trump nemesis Jeff Bezos.
AWS won a temporary restraining order in court in March 2020 to prevent the Microsoft-Pentagon project, citing numerous negative comments by Trump about Bezos and Amazon.
Asked on Tuesday if she saw any presidential impact in the Defense Department’s choice of Microsoft for what is known as the JEDI Project, Lord said “no.”
The next Air Force One is one of two Boeing 747s, originally ordered by a Russian airline but never acquired, which are in the process of obtaining specialized interiors and are expected to be delivered in 2024.