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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Editor's Notebook | Top 100 observations

Change was an important theme for the last presidential election, and for companies in the Top 100, change is a critical part of how they do business.

Some of the changes on the list are straightforward, though potentially profound. 

General Dynamics Corp., No. 4, is preparing for the departure of its longtime chairman and chief executive officer, Nicholas Chabraja. The company is following a strict succession plan as it brings on Jay Johnson. But you have to expect he’ll have his own vision to implement.

Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., No. 10, broke out its commercial business by selling an ownership interest to the Carlyle Group. Will Booz become a publicly traded company? Probably, but the question is how soon and how will that change the company’s partnership culture?

Northrop Grumman Corp., No. 3, has merged two of its business sectors into a behemoth. While it is hard to imagine a contract they weren’t big enough to pursue before, the restructuring brings together compatibilities and streamlines the company’s structure. The result could be new types of offerings for customers.

An observation about this year’s Top 100 is that the top five spots are held by major defense companies: Lockheed Martin Corp., No. 1; Boeing Co., No. 2; Northrop Grumman; General Dynamics and Raytheon Co., No. 5.

The Obama administration and the Defense Department are making some tough cuts on weapons platforms and other high-dollar programs, but I don’t think that means that their rankings are in danger next year. If anything, the proposed cuts put even more emphasis on their information technology and services businesses.

And as the government shifts priorities, these companies also are sitting on a lot of cash and other resources to make acquisitions. In other words, they can buy their way into new niches in the market.

Houlihan Lokey estimates that they have more than $40 billion at their disposal. That means they could buy all the other publicly traded, federal-only contractors -- CACI International Inc., No. 20; SRA International Inc., No. 26; Stanley Inc., No. 45; ManTech International Corp., No. 48 and NCI Information Systems Inc., No. 72 – and still have plenty leftover.

With those kinds of resources, look for the top five to do whatever it takes to follow their customers top priorities.

Up next, an emerging market cracks the Top 100.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 12, 2009 at 9:54 AM

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