WASHINGTON — To streamline its defense business, Boeing is purging 50 executive positions, a move that will force a large proportion of employees in those roles to permanently depart the company, the head of its defense segment said Wednesday.

The organizational changes were deliberately made to flatten the company and make it more agile and responsive to customer needs, Leanne Caret, CEO of Boeing's defense business, said during a Defense One event. The intended result is "a more streamlined approach to how we're running the business."

"This wasn't a decision we made lightly," she said. Speaking of the 50 impacted executives, she added, "They are exiting the company. There may be a few opportunities for a few of them in a different position at a different level."

On July 1, Boeing's current military aircraft and network and space systems segments will consolidate into four entities, all of which will report directly to Caret, the company stated in a news release.

  • Strike, surveillance and mobility will be led by Shelley Lavender, currently president of Boeing Military Aircraft. Lavender will oversee combat aircraft, including the F-15, F/A-18 and P-8 fighters; Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and modifications for fixed wing aircraft.
  • Vertical Lift, which includes the AH-6i Little Bird, AH-64 Apache, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor, will be led by David Koopersmith, now vice president and general manager of Vertical Lift.
  • Space and Missile systems will be headed by Jim Chilton, president of network and space systems. This large portfolio will include Boeing’s share of United Launch Alliance, satellites and other space programs as well as its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent bid and missile portfolios.
  • Autonomous Systems will cover the Insitu and Liquid Robotics subsidiaries, unmanned aerial and maritime vehicles and "certain electronic and information systems." Chris Raymond, who currently leads Boeing’s strategic defense and intelligence systems organization, has been named the leader of this area.

Phantom Works, global operations and development will be largely untouched by the changes, as those segments already report directly to Caret.

The changes, announced by the company Tuesday, are part of a larger campaign by Caret to improve Boeing’s structure as the Defense Department increasingly prioritizes affordability and speed to market, she said. The company has already embarked on a wave of site consolidations and is moving its defense headquarters from St. Louis to Washington in an effort to be more available to military and congressional leaders in the Beltway.

Caret was reluctant to pin the changes on one particular event — for instance, the high profile losses of the joint strike fighter program to Lockheed or the bomber program to Northrop Grumman.

"It was not winning a collection of things that caused me to say, ‘Now is the time,’" she said.