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Pentagon wants Lockheed to focus more on F-35 execution

The U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-35B test aircraft BF-2 flies with external weapons for the fi
The U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-35B test aircraft BF-2 flies with external weapons for the fi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon wants Lockheed Martin Corp to focus less on short-term business goals and more on successfully delivering the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the U.S. military, the Defense Department's chief weapons buyer said on Tuesday.

"We want to know that when they come to us with an initiative or a proposed solution to a problem that it's motivated by the welfare of the program, not focused on a short business goal that they're trying to accomplish," Frank Kendall told reporters.

Kendall said he discussed the issue earlier Tuesday with the incoming head of the F-35 program, Major General Christopher Bogdan, who in September described the relationship between Lockheed and the government as the worst he had ever seen.

Kendall said Bogdan's concerns focused on communications between the Pentagon's Joint Program Office and the company.

He said he was surprised when Lockheed Chief Executive Bob Stevens called him on Friday, shortly before Lockheed announced that its president and chief operating officer, Christopher Kubasik, was resigning after admitting to an ethics violation.

But he said he looked forward to working with Marillyn Hewson, who was named on Friday to replace Kubasik and succeed Stevens as chief executive in January.

Kendall said had gotten to know Kubasik over the past three years but had also met Hewson, and did not believe the ethics issue would have a negative impact on the relationship between the government and Lockheed.

"This stuff isn't personal. We're adult professionals. We come to things with our own business perspective, and we can meet and work out deals," the former Raytheon Co executive said.

He said it was helpful to get to know industry executives over time, but he had no concerns about working with Hewson or any other member of the Lockheed leadership team.

Hewson told analysts on Friday that the F-35 program would be her biggest priority in her new job.

Lockheed shares closed 37 cents higher at $90.18 on Tuesday.

Lockheed is pressing the Pentagon to conclude negotiations about a fifth batch of F-35 fighter jets, which have been under way for nearly a year. Senior Pentagon officials and Lockheed executives met to discuss the contract on November 1.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Prudence Crowther)

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