The Defense Department has named Derek Tournear, the Assistant Director for Space within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, to serve as the acting director of the nascent Space Development Agency (SDA) until a permanent leader is appointed.

Under Secretary of Defense for R&E Mike Griffin, who spearheaded the SDA effort, designated Tournear to replace inaugural director Fred Kennedy, who departed the SDA last week to return to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Tournear’s designation was effective June 24, said Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, in a June 25 email.

Derek Tournear, Assistant Director, Under Secretary of Defense (Research and Engineering for Space), poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 20, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

Tournear will be “dual-hatted” and retain his current position while taking up the acting SDA director mantle, Smith confirmed. Air Force Magazine first reported on Tournear’s selection Tuesday.

Pentagon Spokesperson Heather Babb said in an email June 21 that no change is expected to the mission or activities of the SDA with Kennedy’s departure. In his solo public appearance as SDA director at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Kennedy unveiled a notional future space architecture that the agency planned to focus on, to include a proliferated communications and transport layer enmeshed network in low-Earth orbit (Defense Daily,  April 9). Before his selection to lead the SDA, Kennedy previously served as DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office director.

“SDA will drive the department’s future threat-driven space architecture and will accelerate the development and fielding of the new military space capabilities necessary to ensure our technological and military advantage in space for national defense,” Babb said.

As the assistant director for space, Tournear is responsibility for building a research-and-engineering roadmap targeting future gaps in the DoD space architecture. He is also responsible for coordinating department efforts in space, according to the DoD.

He has industry leadership experience, most recently serving as the director for Harris Corp.’s [HRS] Space & Intelligence (SIS) research & development. Before that, Tournear held program manager positions at DARPA, as well as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). He has also worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) managing intelligence and defense programs, according to the Defense Department. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and a B.S. from Purdue University.