This story has been updated to include a statement from the Air Force.
Northrop Grumman has named recently retired Gen. Mark Welsh, former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, to its board of directors, the company announced Dec. 8.
Welsh, now dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, served at the helm of the Air Force last year when it selected Northrop to build the Pentagon's next-generation long-range strike bomber. The coveted contract to develop the stealthy B-21 "Raider," which Northrop snatched from a competing team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, could be worth up to $100 billion.
Of course, there are rules for potential conflicts of interest after government employees move to industry. These restrictions do not prohibit Welsh from joining Northrop, but they may limit what he can do as a member of the board, says Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek. "The duration and impact of the various restrictions will vary with the proposed activity or subject matter," she says.
Welsh had no involvement in the source selection process for B-21 or the decision to award the contract to Northrop, Stefanek stressed.
It is fairly common for retired military leaders to go on to serve on the boards of defense contractors. Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, former Chief of Naval Operations, are also on Northrop's board. Over at Boeing, retired Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. has served on the board of directors since 2009. Meanwhile, Lockheed's board includes retired Air Force Gens. Bruce Carlson and Joseph Ralston.
"We are delighted that Mark Welsh has joined our board of directors," said Wes Bush, Northrop chairman, CEO and president. "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."