Boeing made a smart, bold choice this week by elevating 45-year-old Dennis Muilenburg to run its huge Integrated Defense Systems unit. Muilenburg has been managing the unit’s sprawling services business, but he is best known within the industry for shepherding the Future Combat Systems program through a political minefield without falling behind schedule or going over budget. That makes him one of the smartest young engineers in the entire defense sector, part of an exclusive fraternity that includes such stellar performers as Dan Crowley of Lockheed Martin and Tom Vice at Northrop Grumman.
It also makes Muilenburg the leading edge of generational change in the industry, a person who epitomizes the kind of people who will lead America’s defense sector for the next quarter century. Politicians and pundits love to criticize the defense industry, but the fact of the matter is that it produces the best weapons in the history of warfare, employing technologies and skills unsurpassed by any other industry. Most of what’s wrong with the sector is traceable to its capricious federal customer; leaders like Dennis Muilenburg exemplify what is right with it. Boeing chairman Jim McNerney deserved credit for picking the best person in his company — and maybe in any company — to lead Boeing’s defense business.
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