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Trump Nominates Two in Reshuffle of Weapons Buying Process

Dr. William B. Roper, nominated to be to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. (DoD Photo)
Dr. William B. Roper, nominated to be to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. (DoD Photo)

President Donald Trump moved Wednesday to speed up the bureaucratic reshuffle in how the Pentagon buys and develops weapons.

Trump nominated two managers with long experience at the Defense Department to fill key acquisitions slots in the new alignment authorized by Congress to split the office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L).

Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, AT&L is slated to be broken up in February to create a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (R&E) and a new undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment (A&S).

In the lead-up to passage of the NDAA, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, both argued that splitting AT&L was vital to streamlining the cumbersome process of getting new weapons and technology into the hands of warfighters.

To help with that, Trump announced he was nominating ground combat systems specialist Kevin Fahey of Massachusetts, most recently vice president of combat vehicles and armaments at Cypress International Inc., a defense consultancy, to the post of assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.

Trump also nominated William Roper of Georgia, a missile defense expert, to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. Roper currently serves as the first director of the Strategic Capabilities Office in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Roper previously served as the acting chief architect at the Missile Defense Agency and prior to that was a missile defense adviser to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition.

In a session with Pentagon reporters last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former executive at Boeing Co., said the breakup of AT&L is part of a major reorganization at the Pentagon that is to be included in the National Defense Strategy.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to outline the strategy later this month.

"And the essence of the strategy is that we're restructuring the department," Shanahan said. "And the strategy itself is a combination of real-world environment trends across all sorts of different dimensions, whether it's economic or military or social, and the guidance we've received from Congress."

As an example of the restructuring, Shanahan cited the appointment of John H. "Jay" Gibson, a former assistant secretary of the Air Force, to become the Pentagon's chief management officer.

"Congress has written in the law many, many times that we need to have a chief management officer, and this goes to the fundamental restructuring of the department," Shanahan said.

He said that "a good portion of Jay's responsibility is going to help us transition organizationally and technically."

Shanahan said much of his own time will be spent on modernization, and matching the modernization with the strategy.

"The balance right now is to generate the readiness and consume it wisely," he said. "We want to be very prudent in how we consume the readiness."

Shanahan said, "It's an unpredictable world and there's all sorts of unplanned events, but that's where we have to decipher how to take risk and where to take that risk so that we're constantly generating more and more readiness, because that's where we said we'd need it."

In nominating Fahey, the White House is bringing back to the Pentagon an engineer who helped develop the Army's $11 billion Crusader self-propelled howitzer program that was canceled by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a still-controversial decision.

The White House announcement said that, in a long civil service career, Fahey had previously served as executive director of Systems Engineering, integration directorate, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.

He also was program executive officer for combat support and combat service support at Program Executive Officer Ground Combat Systems in Warren, Michigan.

From 1982 to 2014, Fahey held numerous positions in the Army, where at various times he "was responsible for all activities necessary to develop, produce, field and sustain tactical vehicle systems and force projection equipment that supported and safeguarded our Armed Forces fighting across the globe," according to an Army biography.

From 1994 to 1997, Fahey was chief of Systems Engineering and International Division, Crusader, Program Executive Office, Ground Combat and Support Systems.

The $11 billion Crusader program was highly touted by the Army as an effort to field a next-generation self-propelled howitzer with automated handling and loading that was designed to improve the lethality and survivability of artillery in the overall force.

The prime contractor was United Defense, now part of the British defense giant BAE Systems Plc, and the major subcontractor was General Dynamics Corp.

The Crusader was on track to be fielded in 2008 but it ran afoul of Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who claimed it was too heavy at 43 tons for the more agile force they wanted to create.

The decision on the Crusader also came amid a bitter feud between Rumsfeld and then-Army Secretary Tom White, a retired Army brigadier general and Silver Star veteran of Vietnam.

In 2002, White infuriated Rumsfeld by circulating talking points to Congress hailing the Crusader's capabilities, even as Rumsfeld was considering canceling the program.

White further riled Rumsfeld by backing then-Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who had told Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to invade Iraq. In addition, White was saddled with his previous service as an executive with the scandal-ridden Enron Corp.

In 2003, Rumsfeld canceled the Crusader program and later demanded White's resignation, which he submitted.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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