Updated 4:55 pm EST: This article has been updated to reflect the White House official announcement and to correct Meredith Berger’s nomination.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has formally announced Heidi Shyu as his nominee for undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and Meredith Berger as his nominee for assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment.
The announcement confirmed Defense News’s reporting from the morning that the two nominations were coming. The White House also announced that Frank Kendall, a longtime Pentagon acquisition official, would be Biden’s nominee for Air Force secretary and that Gina Ortiz Jones will be the Air Force undersecretary pick, both picks reported earlier in the day by Defense News.
The White House also announced it intent to nominate Michael Connor, currently a partner in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and Caroline Krass to be the Pentagon’s general counsel. Krass, a former special assistant for national security issues during the Obama administration, is currently senior vice president & general counsel, general Insurance and deputy general counsel of American International Group.
The selections continue a process of filling out the department’s top jobs after a slow start. They also continue a trend of selecting minority and female candidates for top jobs across the department, a trend the administration has previously pledged to focus on.
Shyu served as the Army’s top acquisition official from September 21, 2012, to January 31, 2016. Much of her career before her government service was with Raytheon, where she worked on a number of business units that will be relevant to the R&E enterprise, including unmanned, space and electronic warfare programs; she ended her Raytheon career as vice president of technology strategy for the Space and Airborne Systems business unit.
According to news reports, the Taiwan-born Shyu immigrated to the U.S. at age 10. Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, the first Thai-American elected to Congress, and Maizie Hirono of Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, have previously pressured the Biden team to add more Asian-American Pacific Islander representation across the administration. Shyu would be the highest ranking Asian-American civilian at the Pentagon, if confirmed by the Senate.
The undersecretary for research and engineering is the department’s top technology development job, with the mandate to focus on producing next-generation capabilities.
Berger has held various policy roles within DoD and the Environmental Protection Agency. During the Obama administration, Berger served as deputy chief of staff to Navy secretary Ray Mabus, and is now part of his consultancy group, as well as a non-resident fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2017, he laid the keel for the future USS Fort Lauderdale, as the ship’s official sponsor.
Berger’s selection comes as the Defense Department is shifting how it addresses climate change and as it considers moving more into alternative energy.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., lauded the nominees as “a dynamic slate of nominees who will help safeguard the nation, support our service men and women, and help lead the Pentagon into the future.” Each would have to be vetted and evaluated, and he would work to hold nomination hearings in a timely manner.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.
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.