Scope of the Position:

The Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) is tasked with securing various resources for the broader Department of Defense, including the physical materials needed for the production of war goods, technology, research and development, and acquisition reform. The position manages the logistical networks and power needed to maintain the activities of the DoD and ensure they are secured and functioning. The Under Secretary serves as the senior procurement executive for the Department and leads efforts to increase buying power and acquisition performance.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

Call for Reform

Critical opponents of the AT&L view the division as "a bureaucratic albatross that stifles innovation and efficiency."1 Members of Congress have suggested dividing the position of Under Secretary of AT&L into an Assistant Secretary for Research and Engineering and an Under Secretary for Management and Support. These suggestions come in the wake of a long discussion on the efficiency of the current position. Many hope to reform the position to better serve acquisition needs and cut down on bureaucracy.

Cost Management

The Better Buying Power initiatives established in 2010 are designed to establish affordable and competitive weapon acquisition programs for the DoD.2 The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 further attempts to streamline the acquisition process. Despite reform efforts, the Department still struggles with programmatic problems such as cost overruns and schedule delays of acquisition programs. Competitive contracts reduce wasteful spending while encouraging innovation throughout the Department.

According to the Inspector General's Summary of Management and Performance Challenges for FY 2015, the Department is "focusing on improving requirements definitions for services, strengthening contract management outside the normal acquisition chain, and developing enterprise approaches for improving the effectiveness and productivity of contracted engineering and technical services, among other initiatives." In addition to these reports, the Government Accountability Office added DoD Weapon Systems Acquisition to its 2015 High Risk List. The report acknowledged a vacuum on economic returns for Defense Acquisition, urging the Department to receive "better returns on its weapon system investments and find ways to deliver capability to the warfighter for less than it has in the past."3

Maintaining Acquisition Workforce

Maintaining adequate training and workforce development remains a crucial objective for the division.2 Acquisition personnel rose from about 150,000 in FY 2014 to more than 152,000 in FY 2015, which places pressure on senior management to improve the workforce through improved hiring, training, and development initiatives. Ultimately, departmental buying power and acquisition hinge upon the workers' ability to perform their responsibilities. GAO also recommends that the DoD focus on "attracting, training, and retaining acquisition staff and managers so that they are both empowered and accountable for program outcomes."3


    1This is No Way to Fix Defense Acquisition;; June 14, 2016.
    2Inspector General's Summary of Management and Performance Challenges for FY2015,
    3DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition;; February 11, 2015.   

Under Secretaries for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics:

The majority of AT&L Under Secretaries come from a strong science and engineering background, and many served in senior positions with private sector engineering, technology, and aerospace firms. Government experience is an added bonus, but judging by the backgrounds of previous position holders, it does not seem necessary for success as an AT&L Director.

Current Incumbent:

Frank Kendall III (2011-present): Kendall brings over 40 years of experience in management, defense acquisition, and engineering to his appointment as Under Secretary. His career spans across defense consultation, engineering management, and technology assessment. His previous positions include Vice President of Engineering with the Raytheon Company and Managing Partner at Renaissance Strategic Advisors. Kendall held several positions in the Defense Department prior to his appointment, including Director of Tactical Warfare Programs and Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategic Defense Systems. Kendall holds various degrees, including an MA in aerospace engineering, an MBA, and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center.

Previous Under Secretaries:

Ashton Carter (2009-2011): Carter is currently the Secretary of Defense. Prior to this appointment, he served as Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and then as Deputy Secretary of Defense. Before his time with the DoD, Carter worked in various capacities in the private sector, including Senior Partner of Global Technology at Global Technology Partners and as an advisor on global affairs at Goldman Sachs. He has also spent time as a Professor of Science and International Affairs and Chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Carter also served as a Senior Executive at the Markle Foundation where he focused on the Economic Future Initiative. He earned his bachelor's degrees in physics and medieval history and later received his doctorate in theoretical physics.

John J. Young Jr. (July 2007-November 2007; November 2007-July 2009): John Young is currently the senior principle of JY Strategies, LLC, a company that provides strategic insight on defense programming. Prior to his appointment as Under Secretary for AT&L, Young worked as a staff member on the U.S. Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense for a decade. Following this position, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition and Director of Defense Research and Engineering. He holds a bachelor's in aerospace engineering and an MA in aeronautics and astronautics. From July 2007 to November 2007, Young served as Acting Director of the AT&L.

Kenneth J. Krieg (June 2005-July 2007): Kenneth Krieg currently serves in several positions, including Outside Director for Tempus Applied Solutions and Nexen US, Executive in Residence for Renaissance Strategic Advisors, and Founder of Samford Global Strategies. Prior to joining the DoD, Krieg worked with International Paper for 11 years, serving as Vice President and General Manager of the Office and Consumer Papers Division. After joining the DoD, he worked as the Special Assistant to the Secretary, Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation, and the Executive Secretary of the Senior Executive Council.

Michael W. Wynne (Acting) (May 2003-June 2005): Michael Wynne currently serves as a Senior Advisor to The Stevens Institute and the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Systems Engineering Research Center. Prior to his tenure as Director for AT&L, Wynne served seven years in the Air Force. After three years as General Manager for Space Launch, he worked in the aircraft and armored vehicles divisions and in the corporate offices at General Dynamics. He eventually served as the President of their Space Division, retiring as Senior Vice president following 23 years with the company. He earned a BS in engineering and an MS in electrical engineering.

Edward C. Aldridge Jr. (May 2001- May 2003): Edward C. Aldridge, Jr., currently serves as the head of HSBC Rail Limited, and as Life Director of Space Foundation. Prior to his appointment at DOD, Aldridge served as President and CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, President of the McDonnell Douglas Electronic Systems Company, Vice President of National Policy and Strategic Systems Group for the System Planning Corporation, Secretary of the Air Force, and several other high level positions in DoD.

Jacques S. Gansler (November 1997-January 2001): Jacques Gansler currently serves as the Vice President of Research at the University of Maryland. Preceding his tenure as Under Secretary, Gansler worked in both the public and private sector. He served as Vice President of ITT and in various management and engineering positions with Singer and Raytheon Corporations. At DoD, he served as Deputy Assistant of Material Acquisition and Assistant Director of Defense Research and Engineering. Gansler holds a BE in electrical engineering and a MS in electrical engineering, among others.

Paul G. Kaminski (Oct. 1994-May 1997): Paul Kaminski is the Chairman and CEO of Technovation, Inc. Prior to his time as Under Secretary, he served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Technology Strategies and Alliances, a technology oriented investment banking and consulting agency. Kaminski also served 20 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he was the Director for Low Observables Technology. Towards the beginning of his career he worked with test and evaluation of inertial guidance components. Kaminski holds an MS in aeronautics and astronautics and in electrical engineering, as well as PhD in aeronautics and astronautics.

John M. Deutch (April 1993-March 1994): John Deutch currently holds the title of Emeritus Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Preceding his appointment as Under Secretary, he served on several presidential commissions, including the Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, Commission on Strategic Forces, Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. From 1977 to 1980, Deutch worked for the Department of Energy as the Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology, and Undersecretary for the Department. He earned his BS in chemical engineering and PhD in physical chemistry from MIT.

Additional Resources: