New refrigerators for Air Force One will cost taxpayers about $24 million, according to published reports. Media reports about the enormous price tag lit up social media with angry questions and comments.
Was this a sweetheart contract deal?
One reason the refrigerators cost so much is that Air Force One is a heavily modified and customized 747 jet, according to Defense One. The report says the refrigerators and “many other items on the aircraft” are unique and not found on commercial or business aircraft. Additionally, contractors that work on the presidential jet must also have high-level security clearances.
Even so, some people questioned whether the cost is part of a sweetheart contract deal for Boeing, which designs the jets and their required “presidential modifications.” The Defense One report stated that the cost reflects “bespoke equipment requirements put in place by the White House Military Office and the Air Force.”
“It’s not a contractor issue, it is a requirements issue,” added Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group consulting firm. “It’s not getting people rich.”
What kind of refrigerators are these?
Air Force One is not equipped with typical refrigerators. The refrigerators on the presidential aircraft are designed hold about 3,000 meals – enough to feed the crew and passengers for weeks. The system includes 26 climate-controlled compartments, according to the report.
The unit is customized to carry 70 cubic feet of refrigerated storage, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said in an email to Defense One. Engineering costs for design, manufacturing, environmental testing, and Federal Aviation Administration certification are included in the price tag.
The refrigerators also date back to 1990.
“Although serviced on a regular basis, reliability has decreased with failures increasing, especially in hot/humid environments,” Stefanek explained. “The units are unable to effectively support mission requirements for food storage.”
President Donald Trump was critical of the cost of two new Air Force One planes, and at one time threatening to cancel the order if the price was not lowered, Defense One reported.
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $23.7 million contract to replace two of the chillers in December, Defense One reported. Boeing reportedly referred all questions about the contract to the Air Force.
The work is expected to be finished by October 2019, according to Defense One.