By Calvin Biesecker

Britain’s BAE Systems said yesterday that Walt Havenstein, the head of its operations in the United States, will be stepping down this Friday; the company said that Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine Corps general, will become chairman and acting president and CEO of the U.S. business.

Zinni, who is a former commander at U.S. Central Command, has his own consulting firm. After leaving the Marines, he has served as an executive vice president of DynCorp International [DCP] and as president of international operations for M.I.C. Industries, Inc., a construction company. Zinni has also served on several boards of directors.

Industry officials said that Havenstein is leaving BAE to join SAIC [SAI], where he is expected to eventually become the CEO. SAIC declined comment on the CEO position, currently held by Ken Dahlberg, who is also the company’s chairman.

The U.K. investment banking firm Cazenove said that Havenstein will be joining SAIC as CEO.

Havenstein’s joining SAIC follows on the heels of the departure of Larry Prior as the company’s chief operating officer to become president and COO of ManTech International [MANT] (Defense Daily, June 9). Prior is expected to become CEO at ManTech at some point.

If Havenstein is moving to SAIC to take eventually take the reins there, he would be leading a $10.1 billion company that is one of nation’s top federal and defense contractors.

At BAE Systems Inc., which is the U.S.-based arm of BAE Systems, Havenstein oversaw two of the corporation’s divisions, Land and Armament Systems and Electronics, Intelligence & Support, which combined account for 58 percent of BAE’s $34.4 billion in sales.

In addition to resigning as president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc., Havenstein has also resigned as a director and COO of BAE Systems. Zinni, who is on the board of BAE’s U.S. operations, will become permanent chairman of the business and will be taking up the acting president and CEO roles on a “purely interim” basis, a company spokeswoman told Defense Daily.

BAE will be looking at internal and external candidates to succeed Havenstein.

Havenstein apparently notified BAE’s leadership of his pending move in the past week or two. However, there appears to be no ill will related to his departure.

“Walt has been a valued member of the board and the executive team,” Dick Olver, chairman of BAE Systems said in a statement. “I would like to thank him for his dedication and leadership during his time as executive director and for his part in the successful execution of BAE Systems’ global strategy and the growth of the U.S.-based business, BAE Systems, Inc. Walt has led a very strong and successful leadership team and the board wishes him success as he moves on to the next phase of his career.”

Havenstein will officially leave BAE’s employment on Sept. 20.