With a single tweet Donald Trump carved $4 billion off the market capitalization of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. “The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump grumbled on Twitter at 8:26 a.m. on December 12, attacking the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which at more than $1 trillion is the biggest defense project in history. Lockheed shares plunged 5% as investors fretted Trump would kill or maim the effort. Lockheed hopes to make more than 3,000 F-35s, at $100 million each, in the next 30 years.
Investors needn’t have worried. That 5% decline was a blip in comparison with the 170% gain in Lockheed’s share price since chief executive Marillyn Hewson took over in January 2013. During that period the company, based in Bethesda, Maryland, has delivered consistently higher profits and given back $12 billion to shareholders, despite declining defense budgets.
Trump will soon learn that the bullying tactics he uses at real estate closings don’t work so well with defense contractors. The F-35 was engineered not just for stealth but for congressional support. Assembled at a 14,000-employee complex in Fort Worth, Texas, the fighter draws 300,000 parts from suppliers in 45 states, with a total estimated economic impact of almost 150,000 jobs.
Even if Trump cancels the program—about as likely as his nominating Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court—it would be painful but hardly fatal for L