It may be a drop in the bucket in terms of overall government spending, but outfitting Air Force One with new refrigerators will cost taxpayers $24 million. Before you go looking for a $600 hammer to smash something in outrage, we should tell you that the high cost of the refrigerators may not be a case of contractors — in this case, Boeing — making out like bandits on military contracts. Instead, the cost is so high because the refrigerators on the presidential aircraft are unique and must satisfy “bespoke equipment requirements,” in the words of Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber.
The requirements for the Air Force One refrigeration units are indeed unusual. The planes carry enough food to last the crew and passengers for several weeks, with about 3,000 meals stored in massive cooling units below the cabin floor. Some of the chillers have been failing in the aircraft. (There are actually two jets used as Air Force One, and they date back to 1990. The refrigeration contract isn’t clear if the work will be done on both planes or just one).
Another factor driving up the price: Unlike ordinary commercial or corporate jets, contractors who work on the planes must maintain high-level security clearances.