LONDON — The head of the British government's £13 billion a year defense and security equipment export organization is to stand down.

Richard Paniguian is expected to leave the Defence Security Organisation (DSO) in the next few weeks after a six-and-a-half-year stint directing the Government's successful export support effort for industry here.

Several industry executives said they had been informed of Paniguian's planned departure.

A spokeswoman for the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the government organization DSO is a part of, declined to comment.

An announcement on his successor is expected by around the end of the month, said the industry executives.

The industry and others here have lobbied hard for the new DSO boss to come from the private sector and not from the government.

Paniguian, who was knighted in the Queen's New Years honours list, is thought to be heading back to the private sector.

An ex-oil industry executive, Paniguian became the first head of the newly formed defense and security arm of UKTI after the Labour Government had controversially closed the Ministry of Defence-run Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) in 2008.

With Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown's poor track record in support of defense exports, particularly in the Gulf region, the out-of-the-blue transfer of DESO to the UKTI arm of the Department of Business raised high concerns among industry leaders here over the fate of a sales effort deemed crucial to the long-term prospects of the sector.

Assisted by significant political and diplomatic support from the Conservative-led coalition government that came to power in 2010, the DSO and UKTI have proved a pretty good fit, and under Paniguian, Britain's export performance has been robust.

Even though the operation has been considerably slimmed to around 128 staff members with an annual budget of about £10.5 million, Britain remains one of the world's leading exporters of defense and security equipment.

DSO reported overseas defense industry sales in 2013 reached £9.8 billion, with the fast growing security effort contributing a further £3.2 billion in exports.

Email: achuter@defensenews.com.