WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed two key Defense Department officials, one for the Navy’s No. 2 civilian role and another to lead the office of acquisition and sustainment.
Erik Raven, who has served as the majority clerk for the Senate’s defense appropriations subcommittee, will now serve as Undersecretary of the Navy. Bill LaPlante, the former Air Force acquisition chief from 2013 to 2015 who most recently has served as chief executive of Draper, will assume the role of the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., told LaPlante during his confirmation hearing one of his top priorities must be “streamlining and expediting the acquisition process.”
“We need to field equipment to our warfighters quickly while also ensuring acquisitions remain on budget,” said Reed. “Although some progress has been made in recent years, the Defense Department’s acquisitions process still remains on the Government Accountability Office’s ‘High Risk List.’”
During his confirmation hearing, LaPlante advocated for an aggressive approach to hypersonics testing along with other emerging technologies like quantum sensing, artificial intelligence, autonomous devices and directed energy.
“A failed test is one where you don’t learn,” LaPlante told the committee.
He pointed to the Defense Department abandoning plans to develop a hypersonic glide vehicle after two failed tests in 2010 and 2011.
The Biden administration has faced significant delays in filling the crucial position to head the acquisition office after the previous nominee, Michael Brown, withdrew his nomination last year over an inspector general investigation into his hiring practices as head of the Defense Innovation Unit.
Upon nominating LaPlante last year, the White House praised him as “a seasoned national security leader with nearly four decades of experience in acquisition, technology, sustainment and the defense industrial base.”
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.