Phebe N. Novakovic
Phebe N. Novakovic became chairman and chief executive officer of General Dynamics on January 1, 2013. She was previously named the company’s president and chief operating officer, and a member of the company’s board of directors, in May 2012.
Prior to her appointment as president and chief operating officer, Novakovic was executive vice president for the Marine Systems group. Previously, Novakovic had been senior vice president – Planning and Development since July 2005, where she was responsible for Government Relations, Communications, International, Investor Relations and Strategic Planning. She also has served as vice president – Strategic Planning, a position to which she was appointed in October 2002.
Before joining General Dynamics, Novakovic served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001. In that capacity, she was responsible for managing processes for all major U.S. Department of Defense budget and policy decisions for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Novakovic also worked for the Office of Management and Budget, where she served in a number of capacities, including as Deputy Associate Director for National Security, where she was responsible for managing and submitting the President’s budget for the Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Agencies.
From 1983 to 1986, she served as an operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. Novakovic began her career in 1979 as an analyst for the McLean Research Center where she performed operational analyses on Department of Defense weapon systems.
Novakovic was elected to the board of directors of Abbott Laboratories in 2010. She serves on the boards of trustees of Northwestern University and Ford’s Theatre, and on the boards of directors for several charitable organizations.
Novakovic received her Master of Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1988; she completed her undergraduate studies at Smith College in 1979.
General Dynamics is an aerospace and defense company of nearly 100,000 employees. It offers a broad portfolio of products and services in business aviation; combat vehicles, weapons systems and munitions; communications and information technology systems and solutions; and shipbuilding. We operate globally through four business groups: Aerospace, Combat Systems, Marine Systems and Information Systems and Technology.
The Aerospace group, comprised of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and Jet Aviation, is at the forefront of the business-jet industry. The Combat Systems group, comprised of Land Systems, European Land Systems and Ordnance and Tactical Systems, provides a full spectrum of combat vehicles, weapons systems and munitions for the US and its allies. The Marine Systems group, comprised of Electric Boat, Bath Iron Works and NASSCO is a market-leading designer and builder of nuclear-powered submarines, surface combatants and auxiliary and combat logistics ships for the U.S. Navy and Jones Act ships for commercial customers. The Information Systems and Technology Group, comprised of Mission Systems and Information Technology provides technologies, products and services for a wide range of customers.
STEM is essential to the technological superiority of the United States military. The defense industry, working hand-in-hand with our military customer, provides US service members with the best technology and capabilities in the world. This qualitative advantage is itself a force for peace; our enemies must consider the presence of capable men and women operating the most sophisticated weaponry available, deployed around the world. That technological overmatch can only persist if our defense industry continues to have the finest STEM professionals in the world.
General Dynamics employs nearly 40,000 STEM professionals across our ten business units at all levels of the workforce. In the past, a company’s STEM professionals were in the management workforce, and the labor workforce was devoted to touch labor. Today, however, we need significant STEM knowledge across every part of the workforce. Our products are simply too complicated, and our manufacturing processes simply too streamlined, to function any other way. Today, we undertake manufacturing operations without conventional engineering drawings, but rather employ a digital system which provides real-time updates. The degree of technological savvy of our workforce at all levels is breathtaking, and it is increasing. Whether our employees come into the workforce with a STEM foundation from high school, technical school, college or graduate school, we build upon that foundation to provide the advanced specialized knowledge required for the pace of innovation our customers demand.
At General Dynamics, we also believe that a STEM background is conducive to problem solving. STEM professionals are accustomed to working together to proceed carefully and logically through a problem. In today’s complex world, we need people who are interested in finding solutions. Real problem-solving requires innovation, rigor and intellectual discipline. Those things are not exclusively found in the STEM fields, but they are certainly found there in high concentrations. Simply put, the world today needs problem-solvers, and STEM education produces problem-solvers.
STEM professionals are also highly-suited for our culture of continuous improvement. The dedication many of our STEM professionals have to continuous improvement allows us to achieve cost, schedule and capability gains year after year. They are conditioned to ask constantly whether we can do better, and then to work to achieve results.
We look for our corporate leaders to have a strong baseline in STEM, or at least a willingness to learn. At General Dynamics, no level of leadership has the luxury of dismissing technical issues. We are all STEM leaders, at every level, and we are engaging with our STEM workforce on technical issues.
At General Dynamics, our senior leaders believe that it is a central part of their job to train the next generation of leaders. This is especially important in our STEM workforce, given the highly specialized, complex products we offer. Today, there are thousands of engineers at General Dynamics Electric Boat working to design the next-generation ballistic missile submarine. That submarine will be in service until 2079. Quite literally, we are building the military of the future, and it is impossible to do so without the best engineering talent in the world. Whether they are building advanced military communications networks, submarines or surface naval combatants, combat vehicles or business jets, our engineers need the kind of specialized training that can be found only on a job site. That’s why we invest daily in recruiting, training and workforce development for our STEM professionals.
In addition, we promote our STEM professionals. I believe that both students and young STEM professionals need to be able to look one, two, or several levels up in the organization and see people who have serious technical skills and knowledge, and a STEM education. Our STEM professionals know that their STEM knowledge is a prerequisite for nearly all of our most important leadership positions.
Finally, like many companies, we believe that it is helpful in advancing STEM education to offer opportunities to promising students, so that they can gain valuable exposure to complex problems of design, engineering and manufacturing. At many of our businesses, these programs are a critical pipeline to STEM talent, so it is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Given the breadth of our products, our engineering challenges are among the most complex in the industry. I have long believed that one of the key benefits of a heterogeneous workforce is that it brings about diversity of thought. We need people from diverse backgrounds, because they bring a different view to a problem, which might well have been missed in a more homogenous environment. As many have noted, however, some groups have typically been underrepresented in STEM careers. For this reason, General Dynamics has sought to support the effort to encourage more minorities to enter the STEM fields, and was named a Top 20 Employer by Workforce Diversity magazine last year. At all levels of leadership, we stress the importance of diversity of thought and we use that principle to drive recruitment of diverse candidates for our STEM jobs.