WASHINGTON — Instead of blowing up the Pentagon chief weapons buyer's office, lawmakers will consider renaming it and creating a new chief technology officer charged with advancing technology and innovation.
Lawmakers negotiating on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act agreed to the compromise language just as conferees are expected to sign off on the conference report for the legislation this week. It was first reported by Bloomberg on Monday and confirmed to Defense News by a source with knowledge of the talks.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the annual defense policy bill this week.
The compromise plan would refashion the Pentagon office for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) into an office of acquisition and sustainment (AT&S), and create a new undersecretary for research and engineering (R&E), with implementation of the new positions deferred until February 2018.
The Senate version of the bill proposed doing away with the position of AT&L undersecretary and splitting those responsibilities between a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, or USD(R&E), and the renamed undersecretary of management and support, or USD(M&S).
The proposal involved delegating responsibilities to the services to free up individuals at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level to focus on developing cutting-edge technologies needed for the future.
Yet the undersecretary for AT&L, Frank Kendall, among other defense officials, had pushed back at the plan, and it was targeted in a White House veto threat as overly prescriptive for the Defense Department. Kendall recently said he met with SASC Chair John McCain. R-Ariz., on the issue.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.