Biden’s pick for Pentagon acquisitions role promises to cut weapons system costs

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WASHINGTON — Radha Plumb, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s second-in-command of acquisitions and support, has pledged to find ways to reduce the costs of the systems she buys.

“If confirmed, my focus would be to ensure that we can identify key issues and sustainment drivers as early as possible. [costs] then include that in the first negotiations [with vendors]she told the Senate Armed Services Committee during its July 28 confirmation hearing.

Plumb, chief of staff for Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon’s second civilian, also noted that the Department of Defense is moving toward a more data-driven approach to tracking the sustainment needs of its defense systems. weapons.

The comments came in response to questions from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, DR.I., who said the costs are so high the Pentagon is struggling to maintain the state of preparation of some of its systems.

Pressed by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, on whether the Pentagon should include intellectual property associated with any major weapons system it purchases as a means of controlling maintenance coats, Plumb said the Pentagon must do this to better manage its Supply Chains.

“That includes managing parts obsolescence and our ability to produce that in-house in a more robust and resilient way,” she said. “If confirmed, I am committed to ensuring that intellectual property and other solutions that can enable us to build supply chain resilience allow us to maintain and maintain combat capabilities at a much more reasonable cost.”

Before Plumb became Hicks’ chief of staff in February 2021, she was Google’s director of research and insights on trust and security. Prior to that, Plumb was Facebook’s global head of policy analysis after serving in several senior positions at the Pentagon, the Department of Energy and the White House National Security Council.

The Pentagon is struggling to control the costs associated with maintaining its weapons systems. For the F-35 jet made by Lockheed Martin, sustainment costs are set to get so high that the Air Force will either have to cut its planned purchase or cut its flight hours, the Government found. Accountability Office last year.

If confirmed, Plumb would serve with Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante at a time when contractors are reporting issues with supply chains, inflation and shortages of workforce.

Another candidate, Laura Taylor-Kale, chosen by Biden to be assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy, asked about the ability of industry – in light of these problems – to supply the United States. United, Allies and Ukraine, following the invasion of Russia.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said the Pentagon, along with Congress and the defense industry, must increase production rates. The US military would be well supplied in the event of a conventional conflict with Russia or China. Taylor-Kale said she would work within the Department of Defense to fill critical gaps and needs.

“The war in Ukraine and COVID-19 have really laid bare some of these critical vulnerabilities and challenges that we’ve known for a while but are certainly more acute now,” Taylor-Kale said, adding that she would work with LaPlante and defense companies to build more “hot production lines”.

The nominees are not expected to receive quick confirmation, in part because Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., denied unanimous consent to advance Pentagon civilians to the Senate.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, signaled he could do the same. He took the unusual step of announcing at Thursday’s confirmation hearing that he would block appointments in relation to the Home Office’s opposition to a road to the Ambler mining district in the northeast. western Alaska.

“Until I get answers on Ambler at high levels, unfortunately, I will not be helping to advance your nominations, although I believe you are qualified – and important positions,” he said. he declares. “But it is important. On the same day the President is hosting a Critical Minerals Summit, they shut down the largest supplies of critical minerals in America, possibly the world because of their relentless war on the State of Alaska.

Joe Gould is a senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.

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