Chris Kubasik describes himself as a “pretty patriotic” kind of guy. He professes a strong love for his country and it shows: he’s a devoted Boy Scout leader and has for years supported the USO, for which he now serves on the Board of Governors.
So when an opportunity arose for this former partner to join Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world’s largest defense contractor, he saw it as a natural fit and a “rare opportunity” to have a career while at the same time serve his country.
Kubasik started his 17-year career with EY in the Washington, DC, office. While he served clients in a variety of fields, including banking and health care, it was his aerospace and defense industry clients that captured his attention the most.
Additionally, the thought of being on the “front lines” of an organization dedicated to global security greatly appealed to Kubasik. By the time his then-client Lockheed Martin offered him the company controller job in 1999, he was ready to enlist.
Since joining Lockheed Martin, Kubasik has served in a number of capacities, including Chief Financial Officer and running the corporation’s Electronic Systems business.
This past January, he was promoted again, to the newly created position of President and Chief Operating Officer. He acknowledges that the COO position “isn’t as common as it used to be.”
However, he calls the move “strategic.” Predicting that the defense industry will be relatively flat for the next few years, Kubasik believes that the company’s dedication to operational excellence — which includes streamlining the company, focusing on affordability and delivering on commitments to cost and schedule — will differentiate Lockheed Martin from its competitors and lead to long-term success.
Respect for the uniform — and the people in it
With US$44 billion in revenues, Lockheed Martin designs and builds some of the most advanced defense systems on the planet. These include the stealthy new F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, the ultra-sleek Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Orion crew space exploration vehicle — the human space flight system capable of safely transferring astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon, Mars and beyond.
But it’s the people in these jets, ships and space vehicles that Kubasik is most concerned about. It’s a lesson in respect he learned through his years of working with the USO.
“A lot of people think of the USO and they automatically think ‘Bob Hope Special’ — but the USO is much more than that,” says Kubasik. “It’s all about supporting our troops both abroad and at home.”
He remembers his first exposure to the USO.
In 2005, he was part of a team that gathered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to assemble 20,000 care packages to send to troops in Afghanistan. “It was just an amazing process,” he reflects.
Since then, he has even enlisted his parents and their fellow retirement home neighbors to write and send thousands of handwritten notes expressing appreciation to US troops deployed around the world. The USO asked him to join its Board of Governors earlier this year.
For former partner and Lockheed Martin President and COO Chris Kubasik, respect means never losing sight of the company’s ultimate customer. For Lockheed Martin, “that’s the men and women who use our products in theater.”
For Kubasik, respect means never losing sight of the company’s ultimate customer. For Lockheed Martin, “that’s the men and women who use our products in theater.
Remembering the people who are making the sacrifice — people who are leaving their families and sometimes giving their lives — that brings significance to what we’re doing here.”
He believes that kind of respect also helps him and the organization work harder to deliver a quality product on time and within the customer’s budget: “It’s what keeps us at the forefront of our jobs every day,” he adds.
Look before you leap
Kubasik thoroughly enjoys being part of Lockheed Martin and feels the career move was right for him. Surprisingly, however, he cautions against following too closely in his footsteps.
His advice to current EY people is “not to become alumni if you don’t have to,” adding that he never fully appreciated what a great organization EY was until he left. But when people do leave, he strongly suggests they stay in touch with their former EY colleagues.
“They’re invaluable,” he adds. “They can give you advice from outside of your organization and make you a better executive over time.” Some of the people he remains in close contact with are retired partner and former firm Co-chair Ed Kay and current partner Bob Bedingfield, who hired him.
“Both were terrific mentors, and I hope I’ve been able to pay forward some of that to others I’ve mentored over the years,” he says.
Away from the job, Kubasik unwinds by golfing, working out and attending sporting events. Sports-wise, he roots for “all things Maryland,” including his University of Maryland Terrapins, the Washington Wizards and, of course, the Redskins.
He also enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife of 25 years, Jane, and their four children, Kevin, 22, Lindsay, 20, Brian, 18, and Sarah, 16.
Doing the right thing
Kubasik’s personal philosophy, whether at work or home, is to simply do the right thing — a sentiment echoed in both Lockheed Martin’s and EY’s core values. For him, that includes truthful negotiations with clients, honest career discussions with employees, candid and timely responses to stakeholder inquiries, or simply making time to listen to an issue one of his children is wrestling with.
“Most of us know what the right thing to do is. You gather as much info as you can in the time you have and make the best decision you can. And most of the time,” he smiles, “the answer is surprisingly obvious.”