President Donald Trump downplayed estimates that a wall on the southern border of the United States could cost as much as $21.6 billion and insisted that he could successfully negotiate the price “WAY DOWN” in a series of tweets Saturday morning.
The construction of a border wall — one of Trump’s most iconic campaign promises — was a cornerstone of his pledge to promote border security and enforce federal immigration law. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly pointed to $12 billion as the price tag he envisions for a southern barrier, consisting of 1,250 miles of fencing and wall. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have cited a $15 billion estimate. Earlier this week, Reuters reported an estimate of $21.6 billion.
“When I do, just like with the F-35 FighterJet or the Air Force One Program, price will come WAY DOWN!”
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“I am reading that the great border WALL will cost more than the government originally thought, but I have not gotten involved in the … design or negotiations yet,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “When I do, just like with the F-35 FighterJet or the Air Force One Program, price will come WAY DOWN!”
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It is certainly feasible that the president could work toward substantially lowering the border wall’s price tag. Even before he took office, Trump showed a keen interest in lowering the cost to taxpayers of federal contracts.
In December, Trump hammered Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon for massive cost overruns in the F-35 program and for the proposal of $10.1 billion to go towards the program in the 2017 Department of Defense budget.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th,” Trump tweeted Dec. 21.
Trump’s tweet drew an immediate response from F-35 Program Manager Jeff Babione.
“I certainly welcome the opportunity to address any question that the President-elect would have about the program,” Babione said, “Lockheed Martin and its industry partners understand the importance of affordability for the F 35 program.”
Within weeks Lockheed Martin agreed to supply the F-35 jets for $8.5 billion, allowing the Department of Defense to save over $700 million, according to CNN. Admitting that Trump helped to “accelerate negotiations” and “drive down the price” of the program, Lockheed Martin praised the president for his concern.
“The agreement represents $728 million in savings and a nearly 8 percent reduction in price over our last contract for the air vehicle delivered by Lockheed Martin and our industry partners,” Lockheed Martin told CNN. “This is a good deal for the American taxpayer, our country, our company and our suppliers.”
Trump also played a role, before assuming office, in influencing Boeing Corp. to reduce the cost of its Air Force One jet program. When Trump discovered that Boeing was planning to unveil two new jets for future presidents with a $4 billion price tag, he took again took to Twitter.
“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Trump tweeted Dec. 6.
After meeting with Trump, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg agreed to lower the price well below $4 billion.
“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenburg said after meeting Trump later in December at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Precedent suggests that the president could follow through on his promise to lower the border wall price tag after he gets involved in the negotiating process.