Defense IT

Trump taps former NASA administrator to head DOD tech research

The White House announced on Dec. 4 that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Michael Griffin to be under secretary of defense for research and engineering -- a new position that stems from the reorganization of the Pentagon's acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) organization.

Griffin served as NASA administrator under President George W. Bush, and also did a stint as president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, the non-profit venture capital firm created and funded by the CIA.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the Department of Defense to break up AT&L and replace that under secretary position with two new ones -- Griffin's under secretary for research and engineering post, and an under secretary for acquisition and sustainment. Current Undersecretary for AT&L Ellen Lord is expected to transition into the acquisition and sustainment job.

An August report from the Pentagon on DOD's plans for implementing these changes said that establishing the R&E structure "is the first priority of implementing the new organization." As under secretary for R&E, Griffin would oversee both the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. And according the DOD report, he would play the CTO role for the department and have "responsibility and authority for ensuring U.S. military technical superiority." 

The division of AT&L is a significant and somewhat controversial change for DOD. Griffin, however, is no stranger to institutional reorgs. At NASA, for example, he drove the creation of the chief operating officer position, separating those responsibilities from those of the deputy administrator.

According the White House, Griffin's nomination will become effective on Feb. 1, 2018 -- the deadline for the DOD to formalize its new structure.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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