Erin Moseley, newsenior vice president for government relations at BAE Systems, held government relations posts at two contracting giants. (Dayna Smith/For Capital Business )

Several local defense contractors are moving to bolster their lobbying teams with some key hires as they adjust their strategies to prepare for an era of tighter government budgets.

Among the most noticed hirings is the appointment of Erin Moseley to head the government relations shop at BAE Systems, which bases its U.S. headquarters in Arlington.

Moseley, who started earlier this month, was president of D.C. consulting firm Principled Strategic and had held government relations posts at contracting giants Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

Her selection reflects a changed understanding of the job, said Linda Hudson, president and chief executive of BAE’s U.S. unit.

The job of government relations specialist traditionally meant waiting until the Pentagon’s proposed budget went to Capitol Hill before lobbying Congress to make changes.

“In the old days . . . you could get Congress to alter the budget that came from DoD by hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit a certain program or a certain part of the country,” Hudson said. “With Congress limiting earmarks, there is very little . . . that can make a significant difference in the Pentagon budget.”

As a result, she said, the role now requires a more complex approach, working with the Pentagon and its agencies earlier in the process as well as staying on top of Office of Management and Budget priorities.

“The kind of people who are required to interact that way are different from what I would call the traditional lobbyists,” Hudson added.

BAE isn’t the only one making changes to its government relations staff. ITT’s Tysons Corner-based defense business, which is being spun off from its parent company and is rebranding as ITT Exelis, announced earlier this month it had hired retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert E. Durbin to head its government relations unit.

The appointee has a close relationship with the Army, which is ITT’s biggest customer; Durbin, who spent more than 36 years in the service, most recently led the Army’s business transformation office.

“Bob Durbin is an absolutely integral part of everything we’re going to do going forward,” said David F. Melcher, president of ITT Exelis.

Last year, Northrop Grumman named Sid Ashworth, formerly vice president of GE Aviation’s Washington operations and a longtime professional staffer with the Senate Appropriations Committee, vice president of government relations. She replaced Robert W. Helm, whom Falls Church-based General Dynamics snatched away to serve as senior vice president of planning and development, a role that includes overseeing government relations.

Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant at the Lexington Institute, said contractors are increasingly looking to make quality appointments in government relations positions.

“For most of the last decade, the defense budget was going up and programs largely took care of themselves. Now, there’s a race to the bottom, programs are being canceled right and left and the political system is divided on what spending priorities should be,” he said. “It’s just an all-around tough job.”

BAE considered other candidates, but Hudson said she immediately thought of Moseley when she learned Bob Fitch, who had long held the government relations post, was retiring. Hudson had worked with her at General Dynamics years ago.

“I was looking for someone that had technical skills, political skills, a good communicator, a terrific collaborator . . . and comfortable with ambiguity and the changing priorities we see in Washington,” Hudson said. “Erin had really kind of a unique skill set.”