Viewpoint: On Tanker Contest

From: Stephen Nodine

I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to all our friends and partners along the Gulf Coast who joined Mobile’s fight to build America’s next generation of refueling tankers here.

I know we are all sickened by the way things played out: a Northrop Grumman victory, followed by a Boeing protest, completely changed specifications, and ultimately Northrop’s decision not to bid. The whole process is best described by aviation consultant Scott Hamilton who lives in Boeing’s backyard in Washington state. He called it “a complete national embarrassment.”

There can be no doubt, however, that pursuing the tanker project has produced many positive aspects. First and foremost is the tremendous regional cooperation that was forged as political and business leaders and tens of thousands of average folks from New Orleans to Tallahassee joined the fight. In the process, we realized the importance of marketing our Gulf Coast region to the world.

Many of our friends from Coastal Mississippi and Northwest Florida joined us on recruiting trips to Europe. As a result, there is no doubt that Mobile, at the center of the Gulf Coast, is now a star on the international aerospace map.

Across the globe, aviation and aerospace firms now know the Gulf Coast and Mobile. Mobile’s Brookley Field is an aerospace hub with Airbus’ engineering facility, the ever-expanding ST Mobile Aerospace, and new tenants like Regent Aerospace which just announced a move here with 100 new jobs.

But our regional will and cooperation are already being tested again. One of our great shipyards, Austal in downtown Mobile, is vying to build the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship. In a scenario eerily similar to the tanker contest, the Pentagon is now tilting the competition to a less-capable, northern-built ship. This time, though, we will prevail… with a little help from all our Gulf Coast friends.

Thank you once again for your support and friendship. I look forward to continuing to work together to realize the full potential of our great Gulf Coast region.

Stephen Nodine
Mobile County Commissioner