By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 16, 2009
Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor in the United States, said Thursday it is naming its executive vice president of electronic systems as president and chief operating officer to improve oversight of its combat ship, fighter jet and other weapons projects.
Christopher E. Kubasik, 48, will oversee from the newly created position the Bethesda company's four divisions: aerospace, information systems, missile defense, and space and commercial satellites. Lockheed's chief executive and chairman, Robert J. Stevens, 58, said he will remain in his role and has no plans to retire soon.
In an interview, Stevens said Kubasik's new role is coming as the Pentagon has pushed for defense contractors to improve performance on weapons systems under a shrinking defense budget.
"We are listening to our customers," Stevens said. "We're listening to the leadership in Congress. They are uniformly recognizing that the global security environment is getting more complicated. . . . They're going to need to do more with less.
"As their partner, we want to step up and make sure we're focused on execution," he said. "We're happy to add resources where we can make a difference. We want better efficiency to reduce costs and give them better value for the money they spend."
Kubasik will assume his new role Jan. 1 and will report directly to Stevens. Since 2007, Kubasik has served as executive vice president of Lockheed's electronic systems business. Prior to that, he was Lockheed's chief financial officer for six years.
Lockheed Martin employs about 146,000 people worldwide and reported sales of $42.7 billion last year.
Some of its biggest weapons programs -- building ships and a fleet of helicopters for the president -- have come under scrutiny for cost overruns and other issues.
Defense industry analysts say making Kubasik president and chief operating officer signals that the company is working to improve its operations and puts him in a strong position to succeed Stevens.
Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant for Lockheed and other major contractors, said the company wants to differentiate itself from other defense companies -- most of which don't have a chief operating officer.
"It is trying to send a message that its programs are going to be managed carefully," he said. "Stevens doesn't want to run the risk of being spread too thin. He wants an operator next to him to monitor the programs while he's doing the outreach to Wall Street and policymakers."
Peter Arment, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, said Kubasik is "well-known and respected by Wall Street and the business community. He has an excellent track record."
"It's a move that shows they've gotten the message from [Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates] and the administration on focusing on delivering programs on time and on budget," he said. "They want to bolster their efforts on assisting [Stevens] in giving oversight on some of their programs, and [Kubasik] is going to fill that role. It is more or less making sure they're not dropping the ball on anything."