Top defense company names new CEO after ex-CEO takes top Pentagon position

Textron Systems, an aerospace and defense company, announced Wednesday that Lisa Atherton would be named chief executive, following the former CEO's decision to step down and take a top Pentagon position.

Atherton most recently served as executive vice president of military business at Textron’s Bell Helicopter division, according to a company statement. As head of Textron Systems she will oversee the division that creates drones, vehicles, training systems and weapons for parent company Textron Inc. 

She succeeds Ellen Lord, who moved aside after the White House on Tuesday announced its intention to nominate her as the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L).

Lord— who had been Textron Systems CEO since October 2012.— would fill a much-needed role within the Pentagon, which has suffered from numerous vacant political appointee positions since President Trump took office in January. 

But she likely faces opposition from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who last week said he was uncomfortable with executives from top defense firms being named as Pentagon officials.

McCain brought up the issue during the nomination hearing for Patrick Shanahan, Trump’s nominee for deputy secretary of Defense. Shanahan until this month was an executive at Boeing Co.

ADVERTISEMENT

Should Lord make it through the Senate confirmation process, she will encounter a Congressionally mandated division of the AT&L position, to come Feb 1. Lawmakers last year moved to split the role into an undersecretary of research and engineering — focused on developing new concepts and technology — and an undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, meant to focus on current acquisition programs on track.

It is unclear which of the two roles Lord would take. Congress intended the AT&L job take on the new research and engineering position, but details are still being worked out.

Lord is also expected to make recusals if she makes it to the Pentagon so as to not violate any regulations in weighing in on future Defense Department competitions involving Textron Systems and parent company Textron Inc.