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Departing Lockheed CEO notes long-term pressures facing defense industry

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Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Bob Stevens announced plans to step down as the weapons maker posted better-than-expected first-quarter profits on Thursday.

In a conference call, Stevens, 60, said that complexities in the global security landscape would last beyond his tenure if he left the firm at age 65, the company’s mandatory retirement age. Instead, he will focus on executing a smooth transition and hand the baton to President Chris Kubasik. Stevens will remain chairman for another year through January 2014.

Stevens echoed concerns raised earlier this week by executives at Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics that budget cuts would pose headwinds to the defense industry. The Defense Department is on course to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years, and military contractors are expected to fiercely lobby against the sequestration cuts.

Lockheed Martin has responded to the impending squeeze by cutting costs. It has reduced its workforce by 18 percent since 2008 and downsized its facilities, Stevens said.

Earnings for the most recent quarter rose 26 percent from the same period in 2011. Net revenue rose 6.3 percent. Net sales from the company’s aeronautics segment, its largest revenue stream rose 17.5 percent to $3.7 billion, from $3.2 billion in the previous year. Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter brought in 14 percent of the company sales.

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