Biden names former Air Force acquisition head as top Pentagon weapons buyer

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President Biden on Tuesday nominated a former Obama administration Air Force official to be the Pentagon’s top arms buyer.

The White House announced that Bill LaPlante, the current head of the nonprofit Draper Laboratory, to be the next undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment if confirmed by the Senate.

LaPlante “is a seasoned national security leader with nearly four decades of experience in acquisition, technology, sustainment and the defense industrial base,” the White House said in a statement. “Dr. LaPlante has spent much of those decades delivering material as well as conceptual innovations to enhance national security capabilities and efficiency.”

LaPlante — who previously oversaw the acquisition of several major Air Force programs including the F-35 fighter, the B-21 and the troubled KC-46 tanker — would fill a post that has been vacant since Ellen Lord stepped down on Jan. 20. 

Biden previously tapped Defense Innovation Unit Director Michael Brown for the role, but Brown withdrew his nomination in July amid an inspector general investigation into his tenure as the head of the Pentagon’s emerging technologies incubator.

Prior to this nomination, LaPlante served as assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics from 2014 to 2017, and after stepping down from that role became the senior vice president of MITRE’s National Security Sector.

While involved in Air Force weapons buys, LaPlante stressed fixes to an unwieldy military acquisition system that has struggled to keep pace with changing technology and threats.

He also was often a proponent of using more commercial technologies in military programs to quickly get new weapons and technologies to warfighters. 

Tags Bill LaPlante Joe Biden Pentagon

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