BAE Systems, Inc. scored a major coup in the defense industry’s Washington lobbying wars yesterday when it disclosed that it had hired star operative Erin Moseley as its next Senior Vice President for Government Relations. Moseley is one of the most energetic and well-connected players in the sector, having exhibited world-class skills at companies like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin that catapulted her to the top ranks of industry advocates at a relatively young age. Her decision to join BAE Systems is the latest signal that CEO Linda Hudson is positioning the U.S. unit of the sprawling British aerospace and defense conglomerate to continue growing during a period of softening military demand. The main ways that defense companies grow during downturns are to steal market share and win government approval of acquisitions — moves that typically require extra-sharp skills in the political arena.
There’s nobody in Washington better equipped with those skills than Erin Moseley. I first met her when she was a graduate student in Georgetown University’s prestigious security studies program while serving a stint at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the 1990s. From the very first encounter it was clear she possessed a unique combination of insight, intuition and grace well suited to representing the arms industry in the political process. Other people saw the same thing, and as a result she found herself overseeing big military initiatives at General Dynamics before she had even turned 30. It was there that she met Linda Hudson, the hard charging armaments executive who subsequently became leader of BAE Systems’ $18 billion U.S. business. Hudson has been recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 most influential women executives in America, and her selection of Erin Moseley as a key lieutenant means that Moseley too may start turning up on such lists.
Under Hudson, BAE Systems, Inc. has completed a major reorganization that will give services a bigger role in the company’s business mix even as it moves to be the dominant global player in armored vehicles and military electronics. BAE typically is not understood on Wall Street as well as other big defense contractors because its stock is traded in London, but in Washington it operates much as an American company would. It works on many of the military’s most sensitive programs, and it has direct access to the most senior political players — which isn’t so surprising when you consider it has nearly 40,000 U.S. employees concentrated in key electoral states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Putting Erin Moseley in charge of government relations is a clear sign that CEO Hudson doesn’t intend to just hunker down during the coming defense downturn the way some of her competitors are doing. Linda Hudson wants to change the way big defense companies do business, and with the team she is putting in place she just might succeed.
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