Lockheed Martin Corp on Thursday said its board had elected Christopher Kubasik as the company's president and chief operating officer, a reorganization aimed at strengthening program oversight in an increasingly difficult environment for U.S. defense spending.

Bob Stevens, who currently serves as president, will continue as chairman and chief executive officer, allowing him to increase his focus on high-level customers and efforts to strengthen the company strategically, operationally and financially, Lockheed said in a statement.

Kubasik's successor as executive vice president of the company's Electronic Systems business area, which had 2008 sales of $11.6 billion, would be named soon and there would be no gap in leadership, Stevens said in a statement. We have a number of strong internal candidates, he said.

Re-establishing the position of president and COO, and electing Chris Kubasik to that role, will strengthen oversight of program performance across the corporation and take operational excellence to an even higher level, Stevens said in a statement.

Under the new organizational alignment, Lockheed's four business area executive vice presidents, the senior vice president of operations and program management, and the chief information officer and vice president of enterprise services will report to Kubasik.

This new structure puts our businesses, their more than 3,000 programs, and the institutional mechanisms for improvement under Chris's operational oversight, Stevens said.

Prior to his appointment as leader of Lockheed's electronic systems sector, Kubasik served as the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer, responsible for financial strategies, processes and operations.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, editing by Dave Zimmerman)