No Joke

By Marcus Weisgerber / December 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

EADS North America CEO Sean O'Keefe said his company fully backs Northrop Grumman's decision not to participate in the Air Force's next-generation tanker program unless changes are made to the draft request for proposals.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman President and Chief Operating Officer Wes Bush told top Pentagon officials the Air Force response to hundreds of industry questions about the latest competition’s draft request for proposals “suggests that the department is not planning to substantially address our concerns.”

“Based on that assessment, we don't appear to have an asset that will answer the requirements as now stated,” O'Keefe said at a breakfast with a group of reporters this morning in Washington.. “This is not a negotiating ploy.”

Northrop Grumman and rival Boeing separately met with the Air Force KC-X program officers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base earlier this week.

“We're heartened by the fact that the response to this has been that the Defense Department has taken that as a serious indicator,” O'Keefe said. “They've invited the opportunity to sit down and review the issues.”

O'Keefe said the Northrop-EADS team believes the Air Force will release the final request for proposals in mid-January.