WASHINGTON — Ellen Lord appears poised to become the last undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Lord, a longtime Textron executive, faced no hard questioning during a Tuesday confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Instead, she and the other three nominees — John Gibson to be deputy chief management officer; Lucian Niemeyer to be assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment; and Matthew Donovan to be undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force — seem likely to breeze through the committee process.
Lord has been CEO of Textron Systems since October 2012. She previously spent time in a number of roles with Textron, the eighteenth-largest defense contractor in the world, according to the 2016 Defense News Top 100 list.
Unlike Patrick Shanahan, the Boeing executive who was confirmed Tuesday to become deputy secretary of defense, Lord faced no questions about how she would recuse herself from decisions related to her former employer. The terms "recuse," "recusal" and "waiver" were all missing from presubmitted questions and answers, which were posted on SASC’s website.
That may have been due to the absence of Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs SASC. McCain, recuperating at home from a recent surgery, previously told Defense News he is concerned about the number of defense industry figures entering key Pentagon roles.
If confirmed, Lord will be the first woman to hold the office for acquisition, technology and logistics, or AT&L — and the final person to wield that title.
AT&L is set to devolve into two new entities come February 1. The first, the undersecretary of research and engineering, or R&E, would focus primarily on developing new concepts and technology, while the undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, or A&S, would focus on keeping current acquisition programs on track.
Lord confirmed during the hearing that she would be sliding over to the A&S job, rather than the R&E role, come February but pledged to make sure the R&E side of the job would not suffer during her tenure as AT&L.
Perhaps the most tense moment of the hearing was when Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., questioned Niemeyer about Pentagon plans for another round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.
In his opening statement, Niemeyer said the Pentagon is committed to providing an analysis of military value that can be derived for other needs from a BRAC round, adding that "now is the time to authorize a round."
Inhofe, who noted he has been through five rounds of BRAC during his time on the Hill, questioned whether the Pentagon could survive a BRAC round at this time given the upfront costs associated with such efforts.
But even in that case, Inhofe indicated that was more of a general concern than a shot-stopper and quickly moved on.
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.