Trump Calls for Ban on Weapons Buyers Working for Contractors

  • President-elect seeks ‘lifetime ban’ on U.S. procurement staff
  • Comments came as Trump repeated his criticism of F-35 costs

Donald Trump says he’ll impose a ban on Pentagon procurement officials going to work for defense contractors, as the president-elect again criticized the cost of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter jet.

“The people that gave out those contracts -- give me a break,” Trump said Thursday at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “We are going to impose a lifetime ban on people that give these massive contracts out or even small contracts.”

He added: “You want to work for the United States? You work for the United States. You’re not going to go to work for the people that build these planes.”

Trump, speaking on the latest stop in what his campaign bills as a “thank-you” tour after his election victory, didn’t provide specifics on how such a ban would work or who would be covered. The president-elect has repeatedly questioned the cost of the F-35, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, and he tied that Thursday to criticism of U.S. military officials going to work for defense contractors.

Government Restrictions

The U.S. has laws and regulations intended to limit “post-government employment” conflicts of interest, but critics including the Government Accountability Office have said over the years that enforcement isn’t strong enough.

On Dec. 8, Northrop Grumman Corp. announced that retired General Mark Welsh, who had served as Air Force chief of staff under President Barack Obama, had joined its board. The Washington Post cited Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek as saying Welsh had “no involvement” in the Air Force’s decision last year to award Northrop a project valued at as much as $80 billion for a new long-range bomber.

After Trump told the audience in Pennsylvania that he would impose a five-year ban on executive branch officials becoming lobbyists, a promise he has repeatedly made, he zeroed in on the military.

“I’ll tell you what else I’m going to ban -- when we have our purchasing agents giving out billions and billions and billions of dollars of contracts to the military and to all of these people where they’re buying airplanes where you see these tremendous costs,” he said. “Take a look at the F-35 program. Take a look.”

‘Out of Control’

On Dec. 12, Trump wrote on Twitter that the F-35 program was “out of control” and said billions could be saved. He made similar complaints on the “Fox News Sunday” television program.

The $379 billion F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is the first jet created in three versions to serve the different combat missions of the Air Force, Navy and Marines. Like many complicated military programs, the jet has been plagued by delays and bugs in its cutting-edge technology.

Still, the F-35’s costs have fallen by 60 percent, according to Lockheed, and by decade’s end the company expects to manufacture the aircraft for about $85 million each. Lockheed and its suppliers have poured billions of dollars into an effort to bring per-plane production costs in line with current generation fighters, slicing $19.6 billion from the program’s total bill since 2014. The total estimated acquisition cost has fallen by 4.9 percent to $379 billion.

— With assistance by Anthony Capaccio

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