Hudson to head U.S. operations for BAE

BAE Systems Plc., Europe’s largest weapons maker, has named Linda Hudson president and chief executive officer of its U.S. operations as the company seeks to diversify its business in areas such as intelligence and cyber and homeland security.

Hudson will lead BAE Systems Inc., the North American unit of BAE Systems Plc. BAE Systems employs about 55,000 workers in the United States and has annual sales around $20 billion.

Hudson, previously the president of BAE’s Land and Armaments unit, takes the helm as the first female CEO of a major defense company. Hudson was named one of the 50 most powerful women in business by Fortune magazine in September.

Hudson said in an interview that she expects to continue to push the company into areas beyond traditional military hardware platforms.

“I do not expect to make any seismic changes to the strategy; it is more fine-tuning,” Hudson said on Monday. She said that BAE is looking to make new acquisitions in areas such as intelligence, energy and power management, readiness and sustainment and homeland and cyber security.

The diversification strategy, also pursued by other major defense contractors, comes at a time when BAE Systems expects a decline in spending on traditional military hardware, such as combat vehicles.

It also comes after BAE lost an estimated $3 billion Army truck contract to Oshkosh Corp. BAE is protesting the decision with the Government Accountability Office.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also canceled the fighting vehicle portion of the Army modernization program, the Future Combat Systems. BAE is expected to bid for a new vehicle program.

Hudson will replace retired Gen. Tony Zinni, who was acting as chief executive officer on an interim basis after Walt Havenstein left to head SAIC Inc. Zinni will remain chairman of the BAE Systems board of directors.