After more than a year without a permanent Pentagon acquisition chief, DoD may get one soon. President Biden nominated former U.S. Air Force acquisition boss William LaPlante to the post last November, and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is to hold a nomination hearing for him on March 22.
Michael Brown, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), was the Biden administration’s original nominee to be the department’s acquisition leader before he withdrew his nomination last July (Defense Daily, July 14, 2021).
Most recently, LaPlante has served as president and CEO of Draper Laboratory. During the Obama administration, LaPlante served as assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics from February 2014 to November 2017.
LaPlante has served as an inspiration for Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who served with LaPlante at DoD in the Obama administration. Kendall has said that he has adopted LaPlante’s guidance to ensure that the Air Force owns the technical design and takes delivery of the design once a system is delivered.
Andrew Hunter, who became Air Force acquisition chief last month, has been serving as the acting Pentagon acquisition chief since last month, when Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks designated him as the acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment (A&S)–a role that Greg Kausner had filled since last August (Defense Daily, Feb. 8).
President Biden nominated Hunter to be Air Force acquisition chief last July 16, but Sen Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) put a hold on his nomination to demand the resignations of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken over what he and other Republicans believe was a bungled handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal last August (Defense Daily, Jan. 19).
Hunter was Kendall’s chief of staff for a time when Kendall served as DoD acquisition chief during the Obama administration.
In addition, Hunter served in a number of positions in Congress, including in the 1990s as the defense aide for then-Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), as legislative director for then Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), and as a staff member of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China.
Most recently, Hunter directed the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and, if confirmed, will follow in the footsteps of fellow CSIS alumna, Kathleen Hicks.