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Ingalls Shipbuilding Appoints its First Female President

hii ingalls
File image courtesy HII

By The Maritime Executive 03-08-2021 07:09:00

Huntington Ingalls Industries has appointed naval architect Kari Wilkinson as president of its Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the largest employer in the state. She will be the first female leader at the division, and her appointment was announced just ahead of International Women's Day. 

“Kari is a respected leader with an impressive 25-year record of success managing programs and overseeing major shipbuilding initiatives at Ingalls,” said HII EVP and COO Christ Kastner. “Her focus on operational excellence, exemplary leadership skills and ability to build effective customer relationships well positions her for this  new role, and I look forward to working with her to continue the Ingalls Shipbuilding legacy of success.”

Wilkinson will take over from outgoing president Brian Cuccias, who will be retiring after seven years at the helm at Ingalls. In addition to her post at the yard, she will also be appointed as executive vice president of the HII group. 

“Under Brian’s leadership, Ingalls Shipbuilding optimized production, improved performance and continued meeting or exceeding customer commitments through many significant and unforeseen challenges,” said Kastner. “His shipbuilding expertise brought immeasurable value."

Ingalls is the primary builder of amphibs for the U.S. Navy and one of the two builders of  Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the backbone of the surface fleet. Both programs have experienced quality control challenges in recent years, according to the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). 

HII's other large shipyard, Newport News, is also female-led. Yard president Jennifer Boykin took over its management in 2017, becoming the first woman to hold the post. Boykin, a USMMA alumnus and an experienced nuclear engineer, has responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the Navy's supercarrier fleet.