Boeing's Leanne Caret to Oversee $30 Billion Defense Unit

  • She becomes chief of planemaker's second-biggest division
  • Caret is first woman to head a major business at the company

Boeing Co. named Leanne Caret as president and chief executive officer of its $30 billion defense business as new CEO Dennis Muilenburg starts to reshape the aerospace company’s leadership team.

Caret, 49, will be the first woman to oversee the defense, space and security business at Boeing, the second-largest U.S defense company. She succeeds Chris Chadwick, 55, who is retiring after 34 years at the manufacturer on March 1, Boeing announced Wednesday.

A 28-year company veteran, Caret currently leads the defense unit’s $9 billion Global Services & Support business, which has 13,000 employees in 295 locations around the world. She takes over a division that may see revenue drop to as low as $28.5 billion this year as government defense budgets get squeezed around the world, according to Boeing forecasts.

Caret’s ability to “extract value out of Boeing’s current programs” in her existing role will be valuable as she looks for new ways to reap gains from key products such as the F/A-18 and F-15 fighter programs, which are approaching the end of production, said Michel Merluzeau, an aerospace and defense consultant. Reaping sales from parts and technology upgrades has become increasingly important for Boeing in an era of constrained defense spending.

‘Very Strong’

“Here you have somebody who appears to be very strong at the management of Boeing’s legacy of in-service assets,” said Merluzeau, vice president for aerospace strategy and business development with consultant Frost & Sullivan.

Chadwick held a range of senior executive roles at Boeing before taking over the defense business, a role he assumed after Muilenburg was named Boeing president in December 2013 as part of a succession plan crafted by former CEO Jim McNerney.

Muilenburg, who became CEO in July, will become chairman of the board after McNerney steps down as a director on March 1.

“Leanne has a track record of delivering results, an intense customer focus, and the global acumen necessary to build on the existing strengths of our defense, space and security business and grow it for the future,” Muilenburg said in a statement.

Boeing’s defense business has been eclipsed this decade by the commercial airplanes unit due to soaring jetliner demand and shrinking defense budgets. The unit accounted for 31 percent of Boeing revenue in 2015, down from 50 percent in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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