Days before taking office, President-elect Donald Trump made two surprise calls to the Air Force general managing the Pentagon’s largest weapons program, the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 jet. Listening in on one of those calls was Dennis Muilenburg — the CEO of Lockheed’s chief rival, Boeing Co. Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the $379 billion F-35 program as “out of control,” made the highly unusual calls to Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan on Jan. 9 and Jan. 17, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Muilenburg, whose company makes a fighter jet Trump has suggested might be an alternative to the F-35, was in the president-elect’s New York office for a meeting during the second call. He appeared caught off-guard but was able to listen in on the call, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous discussing sensitive information. One of the people said the call was on speakerphone.
After speaking with Trump, Bogdan wrote two three-page memos, titled “phone conversations with President-Elect,” dated Jan. 10 and 18th and stamped “For Official Use Only,” to limit distribution. They outlined Trump’s questions about the capabilities of Boeing’s Super Hornet fighter and how it might compete against Lockheed’s F-35C, said the people. About a dozen Pentagon officials were alerted to the calls after they occurred, the people said.
Lockheed has refused to comment on Bloomberg’s report.