President Trump wants big changes to the exterior and interior designs of the next versions of Air Force One, causing many to worry that those changes will take a turn for the gaudy and the needlessly expensive, which led a House panel to vote today to require congressional approval for any such changes. A new pair of planes to serve as Air Force One are due for delivery in 2024 and President Trump has said he wants to change the current classic color scheme, designed by President and Mrs. Kennedy, for a red, white, and blue scheme. Trump is known for liking his decor to be over the top, including garish gold blanketed over interior fixtures and decor, which led Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) to say today, according to The Hill, that “Personally I think we ought to stay with what we have. … If somebody wants [fixtures] to be gold plated, come back here and tell us why it ought to be that way.”
The vote today to restrict Trump’s choices by requiring they be approved by Congress was carried out by the House Armed Services Committee and, once passed, took the form of an amendment to the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The amendment requires the Trump administration to get congressional approval for any changes to the exterior paint scheme or the interiors of Air Force One, which should put the brakes on any changes Trump wants that might be gaudy or add to the already enormous cost of replacing the planes. In July of last year the Air Force signed a deal with Boeing for $3.9 billion for two new 737 planes to be delivered in 2024, although that cost could go even higher if additional features are added. According to The Hill:
The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voted to require congressional approval for changes to the Air Force One presidential aircraft’s paint scheme and interior design that have been cheered by President Trump. …Offered by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the chairman of the panel’s seapower subcommittee, the amendment would require the Trump administration to OK with Congress any “work relating to aircraft paint scheme, interiors and livery” before it takes place. … “Additional paint can add weight to the plane, additional fixtures inside the plane can also add cost and delays to the delivery of the plane,” Courtney said in presenting his amendment. Trump has said he hopes to change the paint job on new Air Force Ones, forgoing the blue-and-white scheme — designed by President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy — for a red, white and blue color scheme. Trump told CBS News anchor Jeff Glor in July 2018 that the redesigned aircraft is “going to be the top of the line, the top in the world, and it’s going to be red, white and blue. Which I think is appropriate.” …But Courtney warned that even seemingly small changes to the plane can quickly add up.
Several representatives made the point that Trump would most likely never ride in the new planes, even if he were to be reelected, since that delivery date is likely to move out to 2025. But that wouldn’t stop Trump from wanting to put his mark, perhaps even literally, on Air Force One, so that the design going forward would be associated with him. Now Congress will have a say in approving or rejecting those design changes. A final decision on the paint color and design of the two new planes to serve as Air Force One is not due until 2021, so if Trump fails to win reelection, Trump will have no say at all in paint color or design changes.