WASHINGTON ― The National Defense Industrial Association’s chief executive is stepping down, citing a disagreement about the direction and leadership of the association.

Since 2017, Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle has led the group, speaking for the defense industry in its opposition to statutory budget caps and budget instability ― and helping it grapple with the economic fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

NDIA, which has 1,700 member companies, announced Carlisle’s departure Friday and said he would stay on until April 1, by which a replacement would be found.

Carlisle three years ago launched the association’s annual “Vital Signs“ report on the defense industry and oversaw the recent launch of its Emerging Technologies Institute. On Friday, he thanked his “extraordinary team” for their work together.

In an interview with Defense News, Carlisle pointed to disagreements with NDIA Chairman Arnold Punaro and Vice Chairman Michael Bayer.

“We just could not get on the same sheet of music, across the governance and in the direction of NDIA,” Carlisle said, adding that he handed in his resignation in December.

It’s an unusual public split between two recognizable figures in Washington’s defense world: Carlisle, who retired as the four-star chief of Air Combat Command, and Punaro, a retired three-star and former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee who now works as a defense industry consultant.

Punaro, who leads NDIA’s 11-member executive committee and its board of directors, told Defense News by phone he wasn’t aware of any acrimony with Carlisle.

“I have great respect for Hawk,” Punaro said, “but if he doesn’t like the way the board governs the association, that’s not something that I as chairman can overrule.”

The move is part of an unusual amount of upheaval for defense trade associations in recent days. Politico reported last month several Aerospace Industries Association member firms, including Lockheed, Boeing and BAE Systems, were withholding dues from AIA following a series of policy losses in the first year of the Biden administration.

Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.

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