TIME — A pair of unrelated, but connected, incidents drove that point home to Battleland in recent days.
First of all, Lockheed Martin – the nation’s biggest defense contractor – has tapped a woman to manage its F-35 fighter program. At $400 billion, the F-35 is most costly weapons system in the history of the world.
It’s also one of the most troubled. You can almost hear the Lockheed board (12 members; four women): “Well, dammit, if these guys can’t get the program right, maybe putting a woman in charge will help turn things around.”
The new F-35 boss is Lorraine Martin, who until Monday was the program’s deputy, and earlier had managed the company’s C-130 and C-5 cargo-plane programs. (“She’s got the right initials,” a Lockheed Martin employee noted). She served an an Air Force officer early in her career.
“As a seasoned leader with nearly 25 years of Lockheed Martin experience, Lorraine has a proven track record of driving operational excellence and has been instrumental in improving the F-35 program performance and delivering outstanding results for our customers,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed’s chief executive officer and president, and one of the females on Lockheed’s board. She ascended to the top spot in January, following an emergency board meeting last November that fired her male predecessor as chief operating officer for having an affair with a female subordinate.
Three of the nation’s top six defense contractors are now run by women: Hewson at Lockheed; Linda Hudson, who runs the U.S. division of Britain’s BAE Systems, builder of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle; and Phebe Novakovic, the new chief at General Dynamics, builder of everything from M-1 tanks to nuclear submarines.
The second thing that caught Battleland’s eye this week is the accompanying screen grab from the Pentagon’s photo page, where we often go looking for photographs taken by military “shooters” from around the world to show what U.S. troops are up to.
This string of five photos grabbed our attention because four of them feature women at war.
Whether this is part of a Pentagon PR push to make normal the idea of women in combat, or simply chance, we’ll leave to the conspiracy buffs to figure out.
But one thing’s for sure: those photos, and the growing ranks of women at the top levels of the U.S. defense industry, represent historic change.
By Mark Thompson
Posted on March 21, 2013
Photo: Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Timm Huffman via TIME