Page 6 - Airforce Magazine_February2017 issue
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Twelve Days in December
Dec. 12, 2016
On Dec. 1, Donald J . Trump announced he would nominate retired Marine Corps G en. J ames N. Mattis to be S ecretary of Defense. Mattis isn’t a reliable airpower adv ocate but is generally well-regarded in defense circles.
O ne small catch, though: It is, technically, illegal for Mat- tis to be Defense S ecretary. As a retired general, Mattis is statutorily barred from the job for at least sev en years from his retirement, just three years ago. This law is in place to preserv e civ ilian control of the military, a hallmark of American gov ernance. Congress has only granted one exception to this rule—for G en. G eorge C. Marshall in 195 0. Lawmakers intended that as a one-time only exemption.
This unconv entional nomination was just the first item in a laundry list of defense-related controv ersies that emerged, large and small, ov er the first 12 days of December. Trump is clearly not bound by conv ention, so observ ers are left to wonder if this was an extraordinary series of ev ents—or if EVERY 12 days will be this exciting.
O n Dec. 3, the P resident-elect took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s P resident. Many China experts ( and the Chinese gov ernment) took great offense at this, because this is just not done. S ince P resident Richard M. Nixon shifted U S recognition of China from Taipei to Bei- jing ( both gov ernments claim jurisdiction ov er the same territory) , the U S has performed a delicate dance. The U S officially recogniz es the communist Chinese gov ernment while at the same time trading heav ily with democratic Taiwan, selling it arms and pledging to defend it.
The v agaries of the China/ Taiwan situation could fill this entire magaz ine, but the status q uo since 1979 has been that the U S officially acts as if the Taiwanese gov ernment does not exist, while at the same working hard to prev ent war. Trump was unimpressed by any of this and refused to accept a status q uo where a communist nation would tell him who he is allowed to speak to. He took the call from P resident Tsai Ing-wen.
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By Adam J. Hebert, Editor in Chief
TheAirForceOneairplanes are nearly 30 y ears old.
O n Dec. 6, Trump took aim at the nascent Air Force O ne replacement program. He tweeted, “Cancel order! ” writing, “Boeing is building a brand-new 747 Air Force O ne for future P residents, but costs are out of control, more than $ 4 billion.”
Boeingis“currentlyundercontractfor$ 170milliontohelp determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serv e the uniq ue req uirements of the P resident of the U nited S tates,” read a Boeing statement in response.
The Air Force is working deliberately to av oid the cost growth that prev iously killed the Nav y’s Marine O ne helicopter
replacement program. Building a secure transport for the P resident is inherently expensiv e. There will be much more to come on this, to be sure.
O n Dec. 11, Trump was disputing the CIA’s assessment that Russian hackers attempted to swing the election in his fav or.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in a Fox News interv iew.
Fox’s Chris Wallace noted, “Y ou’v e said repeatedly you don’t believ e the Intelligence Community’s analysis that the Russians were inv olv ed.”
“Take a look. They’re not sure,” Trump replied. “They don’t know and I don’t know.”
A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing, but Trump is hopefully listening to what the Intelligence Community has to say and weighing the ev idence before making up his mind. As P resident, he is guaranteed to be surprised by the complexity of the international crises that will pop up and suck him in.
Trump stated in the interv iew that the tri-serv ice F-35 strike  ghter program costs “hundreds of billions of dollars, and it’s out of control.” O n Dec. 12, he added v ia Twitter that “bil- lions of dollars can and will be sav ed on military ( and other) purchases,” after Inauguration Day, J an. 20.
Details were not forthcoming, but there is v ery recent, O bama-administration precedent for strong-arming defense contractors. J ust this fall, DO D unilaterally set the terms for a purchase of 5 7 F-35 s at a price of $ 6.1 billion. “After 14 months of good-faith negotiations, it was clear that further negotiations” would go nowhere, said a program spokes- man. The gov ernment unilaterally set a price it considered “fair and reasonable,” the spokesman continued. Lockheed Martin did not like the contract, but the alternativ e was to reject it and walk away.
U S v oters elected Donald Trump in large part because he promised to shake up the Washington establishment. If the 1,4 0 days of his  rst term are anything like the  rst 12 days of December 2016, he will certainly do that. %
Take nothing for granted in the Trump administration.

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