Extraordinary costs of Boeing’s new Air Force One program should be scrutinized, as President-elect Donald Trump suggested Tuesday. But he should not abruptly threaten to cancel a contract affecting thousands of manufacturing jobs.
President-elect Donald Trump’s scrutiny of defense-procurement costs is welcome.
Less welcome is Trump abruptly blurting out that he’ll cancel a contract affecting thousands of American manufacturing jobs in Washington state.
That’s the effect of Trump tweeting Tuesday morning about Boeing’s work on the new Air Force One planes. He said, “Costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
Trump must reconcile this stance with his promise to support American workers affected by global trade.
Perhaps Boeing is singled out for bullying because it exposes a fatal flaw in Trump’s argument for protectionism: The aerospace company is the prime example of how America must embrace foreign trade to support its beleaguered manufacturing industry.
Trump’s support should also extend to all American workers, not just a select few in states such as Indiana that voted for him.
Indiana is where Trump last month pressed Carrier to keep about 800 manufacturing jobs in the state rather than move them to Mexico. It’s also the state governed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
This generated positive headlines and support, even though Carrier will now automate the Indiana factory to lower costs and reduce jobs.
America and its manufacturing industry will not be made greater with one-off deals involving members of Trump’s inner circle.
To support current and future industry and jobs, the country needs policies supporting economic development and education from coast to coast. It must also support trade with foreign countries, which provide the majority of customers and growth opportunities for U.S. companies.
Consider the example of Boeing’s 747 production in Everett:
At the start of this year, around 2,000 people were employed building 747s. The planes are globally recognized symbols of American manufacturing and technical prowess, especially customized versions that carry the president.
The planes are mostly sold to international-cargo companies, which have reduced purchases as trade has slowed. This has led to cutbacks and created uncertainty about how much longer production will continue.
Among the final buyers is the U.S. Air Force, which decided last year to use the 747-8 for the next version of Air Force One. It approved an initial contract with Boeing this year.
More than $3 billion is budgeted through 2021 to develop several of the jets into flying-command centers for the president. They will be among the world’s most sophisticated aircraft, with features such as aerial refueling and defensive capabilities.
The cost is breathtaking and deserves scrutiny before the full program is approved.
Yet even more shocking is the inconsistency in Trump’s position toward American workers, and his ongoing pursuit of headlines with knee-jerk tweets.
To keep it simple, here are a few tweetable replies:
How do threats to cancel contracts at faltering factories make America great?
Does Trump support all blue-collar jobs or just some?
Exactly which Air Force One features would President-elect Trump cut to save money?