By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2009; A16
BAE Systems PLC, a major British defense and aerospace company, said Monday that it has chosen Linda Hudson to lead its U.S. operations, making her one of the highest-ranking women in the defense-contracting industry.
Hudson was named president and chief executive of BAE Systems, based in Rockville. She will also serve as chief operating officer of BAE Systems PLC.
London-based BAE is the biggest weapons maker in Europe and has seen rapid growth in its U.S. business since buying Armor Holdings, the maker of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the biggest producer of protection for Humvees. The company's U.S. operations have about 56,000 employees, with 8,000 in the Washington area. More than half of its sales -- about $20 billion -- are generated in the United States.
Hudson, 59, will start her new job immediately, replacing Anthony C. Zinni, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general. Zinni was appointed in June to lead BAE Systems on a temporary basis after Walt Havenstein left the post to become chief executive of San Diego-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. Zinni will stay on as chairman of the board.
The move comes as several defense contractors are shifting top management and the Pentagon is cutting back its spending and shifting priorities from traditional, big-ticket weapons to systems for fighting more unconventional warfare. Hudson said she hopes BAE can expand its business in the areas of intelligence, cybersecurity and homeland security.
"I am very pleased to have the opportunity to take on this role and lead the company as we go forward," Hudson said in an interview. "It is an exciting challenge for me, and it is an opportunity to take the track record we've got and continue going forward and align ourselves with the government's expectations of their current priorities."
Hudson has served as president of BAE's $12 billion land and armaments division since 2006. Before joining BAE, she worked at General Dynamics, running the ordnance systems department and working in business development. Hudson, a systems engineer, began her career at Harris Corp. in Melbourne, Fla. She also worked at Ford Aerospace and the former Martin Marietta.
BAE has lost contracts this year, including one for a tactical transport vehicle it had been making for 17 years for the U.S. military and another to build a new armored truck for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a decision BAE is protesting. The company is also being impacted by the Pentagon's push for a different plan for the combat vehicle fleet in the Army's Future Combat Systems, one of the Pentagon's biggest weapons. BAE was a supplier to the Army for the program.
Jim McAleese, a defense industry analyst and a principal with McAleese & Associates, said Hudson's challenge will be to "embark upon some sort of healing process with the Army," her biggest customer.
"The Army's procurement budget is effectively collapsing," he said. "If she's losing programs at the same time the Army is losing money, there's a significant possibility her business will contract. She needs to win more programs -- and bigger programs -- to be able to sustain and grow."