There will be plenty of people to tell Trump he can’t do anything about Pentagon waste. There already are. On December 22, Politico published a piece premised on the notion that Trump planned to intervene in contracting “to score political points, reward his friends and punish his enemies.” Doing so, Politico reported would “driv[e] up prices for federal government purchasing overall.” The suggestion of contracting professionals interviewed by Politico was that contracting — “a technical, complex part of the government that is run by tens of thousands of career civil servants” — is better left the way it is.
The article did not really contemplate the possibility that Trump might actually want to impose controls on Pentagon spending to save taxpayers money.
When he met with Lockheed’s CEO, Trump also met with Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing, to discuss the cost of building two new 747s to serve as Air Force One. Trump famously stirred up the issue with a tweet claiming that the project’s “costs are out of control” and threatening to “cancel the order.” After the meeting, he said, “I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the program.”
Perhaps Trump can’t make much progress on either Air Force One or the F-35. (Critics have pointed out that the F-35 program is nearly finished, with contracts spread in congressional districts around the country; the only way to save money now, they say, is to build fewer of the planes, which would result in less bang for far too many bucks.) But there are many, many targets of opportunity for Pentagon waste-cutters. And going after waste would have three big benefits for Trump:
1) Waste is objectively a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
2) An anti-waste crusade would strengthen the Republican image of fiscal responsibility.
3) It would keep a Trump campaign promise.
If he actually tried to tackle the waste problem, Trump would make many enemies, Republican and Democrat. But he would win the support of many voters.