Senate confirms Lord as DOD acquisition leader

The Senate confirms former Textron executive Ellen Lord as the Defense Department's lead acquisition official to fill one of many vacancies closely watched by the contracting community.

The Senate confirmed late Tuesday afternoon the nomination of former Textron executive Ellen Lord as the Defense Department’s top acquisition official and seven other nominees for vacant Pentagon leadership posts.

Lord will be sworn into office as undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics -- the role Frank Kendall held for almost five years until President Donald Trump took office January.

This confirmation fills one of many political appointee positions that several government contractors in recent times have raised concerns about regarding lack of nominations, most notably General Dynamics and Leidos.

General Dynamics attributed a second quarter slump in its IT segment in part to the vacancies it said slowed down contract processing and obligation functions. Leidos has noted delays in award decisions to investors in its first quarter earnings call and comments in June at the 2017 Citi Industrial Conference.

In addition to Lord, the Senate also confirmed Richard Spencer as Navy secretary, Ryan McCarthy for Army undersecretary, and Luciean Niemeyer and Robert Hood for assistant defense secretary posts.

Other confirmations included Robert Daigle to lead DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office, Elaine McCusker as a principal deputy undersecretary, Ryan McCarthy as Air Force undersecretary and Matt Donovan as Air Force undersecretary.

This slate of Senate approvals means 15 out of a possible 53 positions at DOD have been confirmed by the Senate, according to an appointment tracker run by the Partnership for Public Service and Washington Post. Twenty-nine posts of those 53 have no nominee and 11 are awaiting Senate confirmation.

First nominated in late June, Lord will be in the role in its current form for only six months as the department is splitting the job into two separate positions.

The Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act mandates that DOD by February divide the current AT&L function into two separate offices: acquisition and sustainment, and research and engineering.

Lord will shift into the acquisition and sustainment undersecretary position and oversee DOD’s internal business processes as part of that realignment.

A separate undersecretary for research and engineering to focus on technology innovation will be nominated at a later date, the White House said at the time of Lord’s nomination.

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