WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to change existing law to force the sitting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics to reapply for a new job once the AT&L office disappears in February.
In the SASC's markup for this year's National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate strikes out a key paragraph from last year's NDAA that would allow the person filling the AT&L job to take the newly formed undersecretary of defense for research and engineering role.
As a result, the person holding AT&L will have to go through a new confirmation process, one which could land them either in the R&E job or its counterpart, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. The AT&L office is slated to devolve into those two separate offices come February 2018.
The change, found under the header of "SEC. 905. TECHNICAL AMENDMENT" in the recently released SASC markup, is of interest for the defense industry, which has been watching closely to see who will fill the R&E and A&S jobs.
And it is of particular importance to Ellen Lord, the industry executive who was announced on June 27 as the White House’s nominee for the AT&L job.
Lord, the long-time CEO of Textron Systems, resigned from her spot days after the nomination announcement and is currently serving in an "advisory capacity working for the President and CEO of Textron, Scott Donnelly, until her confirmation," said company spokeswoman Ashlyn Brodeur.
The decision to leave her CEO spot before her nomination hearing even occurs could be seen as a sign of confidence on Lord’s part about her confirmation. But the new language would mean that, even if confirmed, Lord is only guaranteed employment through the first month of 2018.
At the same time, it is hard to imagine Lord would go through the long, often grueling confirmation process without some sense that the White House and Congress would support her nomination for another job going forward. Given Lord’s background, she may be a better fit for A&S over R&E — an option now open with the Senate’s changes, assuming they survive conference and emerge in the final NDAA.
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.