Marillyn Hewson, the head of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is the latest name to surface as a potential successor to Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, according to a diplomat there.
Hewson has been the chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin since 2013. The company, based in Bethesda, Md., is the largest defense contractor in the world. Hewson’s compensation in 2017, according to the Washington Business Journal, was $22.87 million. (Update: A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin neither confirmed nor denied whether Hewson has talked to the White House about the ambassadorship.)
She previously held a variety of positions in the corporation, including president and chief operating officer. Hewson joined Lockheed Martin decades ago as an industrial engineer. In addition, she serves on many boards, her company biography says, including the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the Khalifa University for Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi government is a longtime customer of Lockheed Martin.
This year, Fortune named Hewson the most powerful woman in the world, while Forbes ranked her ninth. Chief Executive magazine named her chief executive as well. The publication’s selection committee cited her performance leading Lockheed Martin “through an era of profound political and technological change — which has had an outsized impact on Lockheed’s operations.” Hewson’s selection was celebrated at an invitation-only party hosted by the Chief Executive Group at the UN in July.
Hewson was born in Junction City, Kansas. Her father died when she was a child, leaving her mother to raise five children on her own. Hewson earned an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master’s degree in economics, both from the University of Alabama. (Mike Pompeo, her potential boss at the US State Department, is a former member of US Congress from Kansas.) Hewson’s husband, Jack, left his career to help raise the couple’s two sons.
Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s oldest daughter and a senior adviser in the White House, worked with Hewson last year on projects empowering women and girls and enhancing workforce skills. In March 2018, the president introduced Hewson at a White House event as “Marillyn Lockheed.”
According to Bloomberg News, under Hewson’s stewardship, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets have a market value of nearly $100 billion, and in 2017 nearly 70 percent of the company’s $51 billion in sales was connected to the US government. In addition, the company overseas’ revenue has increased 30 percent.
The costs of the F-35 were criticized by Trump when he first became president, and the price tag eventually decreased. Hewson, in an interview with Defense News in 2017, said of the talks with the US government: “I’m not going to get into details of the negotiations. I don’t think that’s appropriate. But overall, if you look at the reduction, since lot 1 to lot 10, it’s 62 percent reduction.”
Lockheed Martin and Airbus have just signed an agreement to explore joint opportunities to “meet the growing demand for aerial refueling for U.S. defense customers,” a press release said.
The US has stopped providing aerial refueling services to the Saudi-led coalition bombing the Houthi forces in Yemen. American critics of the Saudi campaign, including Democrats who won control of the House of Representatives in the November elections, have been questioning US involvement in the war from the start, in 2015.
The Senate is now considering actions to end the military role of the US in the Yemen war, partly because of the murder by the Saudis of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The parties to the Yemen war are meeting this week in Sweden in a UN-led effort toward such crucial issues as a cease-fire.
Hewson’s role as head of a weapons manufacturer and the backlash from Congress on the Yemen war and Saudi involvement in it could present challenges in her Senate confirmation hearing, if her nomination gets that far.