EADS North America will pursue the tanker bid on its own, acting as prime and bringing in some 200 suppliers when it bids on the tanker.
Board Chairman Ralph Crosby made it official at the National Press Club, saying the tone of debate about the program needed to calm down, but also taking a combative tone, saying: "It's unambiguous we have the better tanker." And Crosby reiterated the familiar war cry that only EADS has a working flying tanker ready to sell..
Then CEO Sean O'Keefe introduced representatives of the major partners in the program: GE; Eaton Aerospace; GKN; Westland Aerospace; Goodrich; Hamilton-Sundstrand; Honeywell; RTI; Vought; Cobham.
With the North American company going it alone, this raises several basic questions. First, can they handle all the highly classified work that will be done on the plane. The answer to that one is probably yes, though the company may need to create a new proxy organization to handle it. Proxies are set up to insulate units that have foreign investors or owners and to allow them to handle the most highly classified work.
O'Keefe addressed that during the press conference, noting that 30 requirements dealt with classified matters. "We have the clearances necessary to do that," O'Keefe said.
Second, is EADS NA robust enough and competent enough to handle such a large program? The answer to that one is also probably yes. While the American holding company is infinitesimal compared to its European parent it boasts some heft, with business units, operating companies and divisions in 32 cities and 17 states. And while these sorts of numbers are always squidgy, they claim "to contribute more than $10 billion to the U.S. economy annually, supporting 190,000 American jobs."
Asked what had changed since Northrop Grumman decided to drop out of the competition, Crosby said nothing had changed as far as the competition went for EADS. "We wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could win," he said.
Now we'll have to wait for the political reaction. Alabama will say aye! Washington will say nay. What will the Pentagon say?