WASHINGTON — Boeing has replaced the head of its defense, space and security business, promoting Leanne Caret to succeed the retiring Chris Chadwick effective March 1.
Caret, 49, now serves as president of Boeing’s defense unit’s global services and support business. During her 28 years with Boeing, she has also served as the defense business’ CFO, and as vice president and general manager of vertical lift, a division of Boeing Military Aircraft.
"Leanne has a track record of delivering results, an intense customer focus, and the global acumen necessary to build on the existing strengths of our defense, space and security business and grow it for the future," said Boeing chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a statement. "She also is an experienced and inspirational leader who understands all aspects of our business, operates with a 'One Boeing' perspective and has the trust and respect of our employees and our external stakeholders."
Chadwick, 55, has headed up Boeing’s defense, space and security since December 2013. He rose through the ranks during his 34 years at Boeing, including stints as president of Boeing Military Aircraft and vice president of global strike systems.
Muilenburg praised Chadwick’s dedication and commitment to Boeing throughout his career.
"His leadership and strategic focus during a challenging time in our markets has prepared us to move forward with confidence and improved competitiveness,” he said.
Boeing’s defense business has weathered several setbacks in recent years, most notably missing out on the contract award for the Long Range Strike bomber (LRS-B) as part of a team with Lockheed Martin, and major cost overruns on its KC-46 tanker.
Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute and defense industry consultant with close ties to Boeing, wrote Wednesday that while some may see Chadwick’s departure as fallout from the LRS-B miss, it was clear that Boeing had been grooming Caret for upper management.
“The challenge Caret now faces is how to grow Boeing’s defense and space revenues at a time when demand for jetliners may be softening and Pentagon spending is capped by law,” Thompson wrote.
Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group who specializes in aerospace, said Chadwick did very good work keeping margins up on declining programs, but one possible reason for his departure could be the LRS-B loss, which Aboulafia described as a “tectonic event” for Boeing.
“He was very well-liked in that job,” Aboulafia said. “If it was as a consequence of LRS-B, that’s rather surprising, because there are far greater forces at work than the guy at the top in the bid selection.”
Chadwick’s retirement could portend more personnel changes in Boeing’s defense business, Aboulafia said.
“If this has happened now a consequence” of the LRS-B loss, he said, “you wonder what further changes are to come.”