On Thursday afternoon, President-elect Donald Trump dropped a bombshell on the defense industry: He asked Boeing to price out an alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets, a hugely valuable contract that Trump has criticized as too expensive. Lockheed’s share price plunged almost 2 percent in after-hours trading.
It was the culmination of weeks of interference by the president-elect in the arcane, bureaucratic function of federal procurement. In early December, it was Boeing on the receiving end of Trump’s wrath, when he tweeted that the costs of the new Air Force One planes are “out of control” and told reporters, “Boeing is doing a little bit of a number.” A few days later, he criticized the cost of the F-35 contract. And earlier this week, he convened top military officials and the CEOs of Boeing and Lockheed at his Mar-a-Lago estate to discuss how to bring costs down. Trump told reporters afterward, “We’re just beginning, it’s a dance.”