Michael Gass, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, has announced he will be stepping down. (JEWEL SAMAD / AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The United Launch Alliance has a new leader for the first time in its nine-year history.
Michael Gass, who has led the company as president and CEO since its founding in 2006, will be stepping down, the company announced Tuesday. His replacement is Tory Bruno, most recently vice president and general manager of Strategic and Missile Defense Systems at Lockheed Martin.
Bruno’s appointment is effective immediately, although a company announcement notes Gass will “work collaboratively to ensure a smooth leadership transition and continued commitment to mission success” through the end of the year.
The shakeup at ULA, a joint venture of Lockheed and Boeing, comes at a time when the company is facing its first real challenge to its monopoly on military space launch for the Pentagon’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, expects to be certified for EELV launches by the end of the year. Company officials have insisted they can provide space launches for significantly less cost than ULA’s legacy platforms, the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.
ULA’s handling of the EELV program, among the Pentagon’s most expensive operations, has also come under scrutiny from Congress.
Adding to the situation is international pressure from Russia, which produces the RD-180 engine used in the Atlas V.
In a statement released by ULA, leadership from both Lockheed and Boeing praised Gass’ work at ULA. But it’s hard not to read this as the parent companies deciding the current CEO simply wasn’t getting the job done when faced with the media blitz SpaceX has assembled.
Speaking to reporter in June, Gass admitted his company has fallen behind SpaceX in the publicity wars.?
Bruno has been with Lockheed since 1984 and has held a number of executive-level jobs with the company. His bio also cites him as the author of “two books that explore the organization of the medieval Knights Templar from the perspective of modern business management.”
A Lockheed spokesman told Defense News that Tim Cahill, who was previously the vice president of engineering and technology for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, is succeeding Bruno.