Visiting the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin Thursday, President Trump said that the defense company’s procurement of a $5.5 billion contract to build new frigates was based in part on political considerations.
Describing the frigates as the “fastest, most advanced, and most maneuverable combat ships anywhere on the ocean,” Trump added, “I hear the maneuverability is one of the big factors that you were chosen for the contract. The other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth.”
Robert Mackey of The Intercept said that Trump’s comments could give competing firms that lost out on the contract grounds to file a complaint with the Government Accountability Office’s Procurement Law Division, charging that the contract was awarded on political grounds.
In a freewheeling, politically charged speech, Trump also took credit for the appearance of new navy ships. “I’ve changed designs,” he said. “I looked at it. I said, ‘That’s a terrible-looking ship. Let’s make it beautiful. It’ll cost you the same and maybe less.’ I said, ‘This is not a good-looking ship. Let’s change the design of it.’ And I got people in and we looked at different designs.”
Some defense experts expressed doubts about Trump’s claim to have intervened in the design of the new warship, and Marcus Weisgerber of Defense One said that it wasn’t clear what the president was referring to. The new frigate is reportedly based on the design of an existing warship used by the Italian Navy.
More concretely and on a smaller scale, Trump told his audience that the defense contractor had given him a “beautiful model” of a ship, which he said is “like a yacht with missiles on it.”