By Saagar Enjeti
Newly designated Secretary of Defense James Mattis reportedly assured U.S. senators of his commitment to move forward with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which President-elect Donald Trump previously suggested had problems.
Trump tweeted Dec. 22 that he was asking the Boeing corporation to offer a competitively priced alternative to the F-35 program, which is the current flagship fighter program of the U.S. The F-35 program is the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history, costing U.S. taxpayers nearly 400 billion dollars. Trump repeatedly expresses ire at the program’s cost overruns, and indicates he is open to radical cost-saving maneuvers. The F-35 is built by defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal from North Carolina t0ld local Connecticut media that Mattis gave lawmakers a “clear commitment” to the F-35 program. “I was encouraged by his clear commitment to American air superiority and the important role of the F-35 program in sustaining and enhancing it,” Blumenthal said in a statement released after his meeting with Mattis.
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson also gave Trump a “personal commitment” to “aggressively” drive costs down on the program.
The willingness of Mattis to express divergent views concerning defense programs and the military generally, is reportedly what endeared him to Trump, along with his reputation as a tough fighter.
In his initial interview with Trump, Mattis pushed back against Trump’s professed desire to bring back enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists.