BAE Executive to Head SAIC

Walt Havenstein is stepping down after three years as chief executive of the Rockville-based U.S. arm of British defense contractor BAE to take that position at fellow contractor Science Applications International Corp.

Retired Marine Gen. Tony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, will be interim chief executive and chairman of the board at BAE Systems while the firm searches for a replacement for Havenstein, the company said. Zinni, the former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, has sat on the board of BAE Systems for five years.

Havenstein's resignation is effective Friday, BAE said. San Diego-based SAIC declined to comment on its chief executive position. Kenneth Dahlberg, 64, has been its chief executive since November 2003, led the company's transition from employee-owned to publicly traded, and grew its revenue to $10.07 billion. SAIC is one of the area's biggest employers, with more than 17,000 workers in Washington.

BAE Systems makes defense and security products including Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The U.S. contracting businesses, which include land, air and sea products as well as security services, accounted for 58 percent of its parent company's $34 billion in sales last year. Havenstein had been with the company 10 years and also served as chief operating officer of the parent company. Zinni will fill this position as well.

Havenstein was not available to comment on the transition.

While BAE Systems makes combat vehicles and focuses on products geared toward military forces, SAIC's work ranges from defense to areas like public health and energy.

Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson said Havenstein's move to a company with a distinctly different portfolio and Zinni's ascension at BAE Systems are part of a larger shift in leadership across the defense industry, he said.

"With the drawdown in Iraq signaling a leveling off, if not decline, in defense spending, the reorganization of the defense industry seems to have begun," Thompson said.

--Emma L. Carew

By Terri Rupar  |  June 22, 2009; 6:24 PM ET  | Category:  Aerospace & Defense
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