Defense contractors

Lockheed Martin CEO: The painful cost of the government shutdown

October 16, 2013: 4:52 PM ET

The defense contractor has put 2,000 employees on furlough, CEO Marillyn Hewson explained at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit.

By Beth Kowitt, writer

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FORTUNE -- Marillyn Hewson, CEO and president of Lockheed Martin (LMT), knows firsthand the impact that the government shutdown has had on business.

She's had to put 2,000 employees on furlough at the world's largest defense contractor, and that number will grow the longer the shutdown goes on, she said at Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit on Wednesday. "I'm encouraged that it looks like we're going to get to some kind of deal," she said.

Hewson also voiced her concerns around budget sequestration, taking issue with its across-the-board cuts. "It's a law and policy that's not good for our nation or national security," she said. "We need to address long-term fiscal problems, but we need to do it in way that lines up with national security strategy." The $47 billion defense company works on more than just missiles, she noted, projects that could also be impacted by cuts: the next generation of GPS, satellites that let you monitor the weather, and air traffic control, to name a few.

Hewson, who took over as CEO of Lockheed in January, is one of three women heading up U.S. defense companies. She pointed out that a quarter of Lockheed's workforce is comprised of women. "I don't think it's the ultimate boys' club anymore, if it ever was," she said.

MORE: Complete coverage of the Most Powerful Women Summit

Also headed by a woman: Lockheed's F-35 fighter jet business, the largest weapons program in U.S. history, which makes up 15% of the company's sales. The program has come under attack as a symbol of government waste, but Hewson said it's been on an excellent trajectory for the last three years. Production is ramping up, and it now has 10,000 hours of flight time.

Hewson also brought up one woman who's had a major influence on her life -- her 94-year-old mother. Hewson's father passed away when she was nine years old, and her mother worked two jobs to support her five children. Hewson's mother used to hand her a grocery list with $7 worth of groceries and a $5 bill and tell her to make it work. "Her expectation was, 'I don't want to hear excuses,'" she says. "'Just handle it.'" She instilled in her daughter a sense of resilience and self-reliance. "My dad was a successful man, and all of a sudden there she was," she said. "It taught me nothing's forever."

Lockheed Martin moved Hewson through a plethora of roles, with the CEO job ranking as her 20th at the company. That kind of talent development is ingrained throughout the defense contractor, she said. "I'm a product of that succession planning process," she added. Hewson was set to be COO, a position that would likely have been her last at the company, until the CEO-in-waiting resigned over an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

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