CEO of BAE US jumps ship to rival defence giant

Posted on 24 Jun 2009 by The Manufacturer

BAE Systems US director, Walt Havenstein, is to step down after two years in charge at the Rockville-based subsidiary of the British defence and aerospace conglomerate.

Havenstein will formally leave BAE on September 20, having spent 10 years at the firm serving as president, executive vice president, and CEO. He is credited with leading the resurgence of the company’s American division, which now accounts for over half of global business turnover.

Havenstein will take the chief executive seat at BAE’s San Diego-based rival Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), one of the country’s largest government-service defence contractors. SAIC’s clients include the United States Department of Defense; Department of Homeland Security; the National Security Agency; and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

The news will be greeted with relief at SAIC, given that its CEO, Lawrence Prior, jumped ship a fortnight previously to become president and chief operating officer at Mantech International Corp.

Defence industry analyst Dr Loren Thompson says such moves are indicative of a shift in leadership throughout the industry. “With the drawdown in Iraq signaling a leveling off, if not decline, in defence spending, the reorganisation of the defence industry seems to have begun,” she said.

Indeed, security commentators widely expect that the Obama administration – coupled with a heavily Democratic Congress – will shift spending away from the defence sector in general.

Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni has been installed as interim CEO at BAE, pending a new appointment. Zinni, a former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, said his aim was to “make the transition to the new CEO in the smoothest way possible.”

Havenstein will not receive severance payment or annual bonus for 2009, given that he only worked for part of fiscal year.