WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top acquisition official wants to shift the “bulk” of major defense programs back to the services, which could include moving individuals from the Office of the Secretary of Defense towards service jobs.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L), believes that her office has been given marching orders from Congress to push the day-to-day management of Major Defense Acquisition Programs, or MDAPs, to the three services.

“Congress been very, very clear in the last few NDAAs that they want to shift oversight of most programs back to the services, and I entirely agree with that. In fact, there were some programs that were transitioned back earlier this year,” Lord said.

The exceptions that remain at AT&L will be cross-service, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter or the “exceptionally high-risk and high-stakes” programs, Lord said.

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Lord’s take on the situation will likely please Congress, which ordered a reorganization at AT&L, effective Feb. 1, in part, to force the OSD-level management to devolve to the various services.

Speaking to reporters after the panel, Lord expanded on the MDAP review, saying that “most of the new” programs will go down to the services but that her team is “in the midst” of a review of existing programs to see if it makes sense to move those to the services as well.

And if programs currently under AT&L move, the people attached to managing those programs might move, too.

“We’re actively talking about people moving so that the services have the capability they need, because obviously, we need to keep going and be effective throughout this, so we don’t want any hiccups there,” she said.

Asked whether she needed to talk to the Hill about that, Lord said she believes DoD has the authorities needed to shift programs and people now but that she would still likely reach out to the Hill to discuss it.

“Frankly, I have found the Hill to be very, very supportive. The [House and Senate] staffers have worked very closely with us, and I’m talking with them through what we’re doing and getting their ideas and thoughts, as well,” Lord said.

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.

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