Pentagon reorganizes industrial policy office to shore up defense firms, supply chain

The crew of U.S. Army Vessel Lt. General William B. Bunker (LSV-4) loads equipment and supplies on LSV-4 in Guam in July 2021.

The crew of U.S. Army Vessel Lt. General William B. Bunker (LSV-4) loads equipment and supplies on LSV-4 in Guam in July 2021. DMCA

The restructure gives two new deputies to the assistant secretary for industrial policy—and "dissolves" another.

The Pentagon has restructured its industrial policy office, a move that elevates oversight of the defense industry at a time of widespread supply chain troubles in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among other changes, the reorganization has created two new deputy assistant secretaries, one to focus on industrial base resilience and the other on industrial base development and international engagement, Pentagon spokesperson Jessica Maxwell said Thursday.

The industrial-policy office itself was created by the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which established the position of assistant secretary for industrial base policy. It rests within the Pentagon’s acquisition office, which “conducted an organizational assessment to determine the optimal structure for this new office to ensure a robust, secure, resilient, and innovative defense industrial base,” Maxwell said in an email.

The consequent reorganization “dissolved” the position of deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, she said. Jesse Salazar, a Biden administration political appointee, held the position for the past 14 months. Defense One reported Wednesday that Salazar was no longer serving in the position.

The reorganization also added a “career principal deputy” position to oversee the two new deputy assistant secretaries, Maxwell said. The industrial-policy office’s newly updated org chart says the role is currently filled by Michael Vaccaro, a non-political civil servant.

The office’s top job—assistant secretary for industrial base policy—is temporarily being filled by Deborah Rosenblum, the assistant defense secretary for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs.

Her permanent replacement will require Senate confirmation, but the Biden administration has yet to nominate someone—something the leader of one trade association is encouraging the White House to do quickly.

“If there was ever a time to support and strengthen the partnership between government and the defense industrial base this is the moment,” Eric Fanning, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, said in an emailed statement. “With Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine and other looming threats, the health and resilience of the defense industrial base is paramount. We urge the Biden Administration to quickly fill these critical Pentagon positions and underscore that our national security, and the innovation and defense industrial base that sustains it, is a unique and enduring responsibility.”

There is, however, already a “Senior Advisor in Industrial Base Policy at the Department of Defense”: Erin Simpson, who was sworn in on March 21. Simpson previously worked at Northrop Grumman as the director of strategy development and deployment in the company’s Space Systems business.

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