Here’s Who is Running the Pentagon’s Acquisition and Technology Offices

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September 28, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: September 28 on

In an interview with Deputy Editor Aaron Mehta, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord provides an update on her office”s reorganization and the path ahead for acquisition reform.

When the Pentagon split the legacy Acquisition, Technology and Logistics office into two new organizations, it came with a massive reshuffling of personnel.

Now, eight months after the split officially happened, Under Secretary of Research and Engineering Michael Griffin and Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord are still working to formulate their teams, with several key individuals confirmed or added in just the last few weeks.

Structurally, R&E differs from A&S in a notable way. Instead of having assistant secretary of defense positions — generally the level under the undersecretary and requiring congressional approval — the office is set up with “directors.” Casting those offices in that way means Griffin can quickly hire without the congressional process, something he has already taken advantage of.

Reporting directly to Griffin and his eventual deputy are seven individuals. The Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s commercial tech hub, has been taken over by former Symantec CEO Michael Brown; the Strategic Capabilities Office, which focuses on taking existing technologies and improving them, is led by longtime Griffin associate Chris Shank; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is led by Steven Walker, who previously served as the group’s deputy director; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves continues to lead the Missile Defense Agency.

Two other key roles have been quietly filled in recent weeks. The first, director of research and technology — the office of which oversees research areas such as cyber, microelectronics, quantum sciences, directed energy and machine learning — is being filled by Milan “Mitch” Nikolich.

The lower levels of the A&S structure are more filled out, and the two key empty leadership spots will likely be filled soon.

Both Alan Shaffer, to be Lord’s deputy, and Robert McMahon, to be assistant secretary of defense for sustainment, were voted out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. They now await a vote in the full Senate and are not expected to encounter any opposition. However, there is a chance that any nominees could be held up by the Supreme Court fight, or simply fall by the wayside as members flee Washington ahead of the election.

Once confirmed, they will join Kevin Fahey, the ASD for acquisition, and Guy Roberts, the ASD for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense, as the chief lieutenants for Lord.

Related Links

The Honorable Ellen M. Lord, Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment – Biography

Dr. Michael D. Griffin, Under Secretary of Research and Engineering – Biography

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Department of Degense Research and Engineering Enterprise

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Report to Congress Restructuring the Department of Defense  Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization: In Response to Section 901 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114 – 328) , August 2017

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018