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Former Air Force Chief of Staff Joins Northrop


The revolving door of retired military generals headed to defense contractors continues to spin.

The U.S. Air Force's former chief of staff, retired Gen. Mark Welsh, has joined the board of directors for Northrop Grumman Corp., the company announced Thursday.

The move comes just five months after Welsh retired as the service's top uniformed officer and a little more than a year after Northrop won the biggest Pentagon contract in decades -- to begin developing the B-21 Raider as part of the potentially $80 billion Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRSB, program.

"His extensive leadership experience and deep understanding of global security are a great fit to our board, and we are excited about the contributions he will make as Northrop Grumman employees around the globe work to create value for our customers and shareholders," Wes Bush, the company's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Welsh, currently the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, served as the Air Force's chief of staff from 2012 until this summer. He'll be the 14th member of Northrop's board, joining 13 independent directors, the company said.

The release didn't specify how much Welsh will be paid. Of Northrop's 12 board members who received compensation in 2015, the average amount was $260,621, with a minimum of $102,916 and a maximum of $314,142, according to the proxy statement accompanying the company's annual report.

During his time on the joint staff, Welsh advocated for new aircraft to modernize the Air Force's aging fleet.

"The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50," he said during Feb. 10 testimony before lawmakers. "There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats … the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new."

Around that time, the service unveiled its first prototype design graphic of the B-21.

Northrop in October 2015 beat out Boeing Co., the world's largest aerospace company, and Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, for the $21.4 billion initial contract as part of the LRSB program.

The Air Force plans to buy 100 of the new bombers from Northrop Grumman, which manufactured the B-2 Spirit, to replace its fleet of B-52 Stratofortresses and a portion of its fleet of B-1 Lancers.

Not many details have been shared about the B-21. And the Air Force's photos of the Raider mock-up have critics grumbling that the future bomber closely resembles the B-2.

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