Patrick Shanahan arrived at the Pentagon in July 2017 with more than 30 years of experience at Boeing.
It’s not unusual for defence officials to have worked for private-sector defence firms for part of their career. But Shanahan’s three decades at one of the largest defence contractors attracted scrutiny. The late Sen. John McCain, who chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern about an executive from one of the five firms that account for most of US defence spending taking a senior Pentagon post.
“I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse,” McCain said during Shanahan’s confirmation hearing.
This month, as Shanahan took over the top Pentagon job after Jim Mattis’ acrimonious departure, he said he would recuse himself from matters involving Boeing for the “duration of his service in the Department of Defence.”
But some accounts indicate he’s rooting for his old team. According to a recent Politico report, in 18 months at the Pentagon, Shanahan has been heard to boost Boeing and trash its competitors, including Lockheed Martin, which Shanahan reportedly said “doesn’t know how to run a program,” referring to the F-35 program, which he reportedly called “f—– up.”
While Shanahan spent his career with a defence contractor, other officials leading the Office of the Secretary of Defence have mixed backgrounds.
Ellen Lord, the head of acquisitions, spent nearly 15 years with Textron, another defence firm, before joining the Pentagon. John Rood, head of policy, worked in government for nearly 20 years before spending 10 years in the private sector. Joseph Kernan, the head of intelligence, spent his career in the Navy before retiring in 2013.
Below, you can see the backgrounds of the leadership in the defence chief’s main staff office, responsible for developing policy, managing resources, and evaluating programs.
Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defence, 31 years with Boeing.
After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and two master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986, holding a number of positions there over the next three decades.
In 1995, he became the director of the tooling business unit for Boeing’s fabrication division. Two years later he became director of Boeing’s 767 manufacturing business unit and in 1999 served as program manager for the 767-400ER program.
In February 2000, he took over as vice president and general manager of Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes’ 757 programs, overseeing the 757 family of planes’ design, production, and profitability.
In 2002 he moved to Boeing’s Integrated Defence Systems unit, responsible for the division of the company that makes helicopters. Two years later, he became vice president and general manager of missile-defence systems.
In October 2007, he became vice president of Boeing and for the following year served as vice president and general manager of Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes’ 787 program.
At the end of 2008, he became senior vice president and general manager of Aeroplane Programs and Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes. His last position at Boeing before leaving for government service was senior vice president of supply chain and operations, which he took in April 2017, reporting directly to the company’s CEO.
David Norquist, acting deputy secretary of defence, 9 years with a private accounting firm.
David Norquist became undersecretary of defence, comptroller, and chief financial officer at the Pentagon in June 2017. He still holds that position and became acting deputy defence secretary this month.
Norquist graduated from the University of Michigan, where he was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, in 1989 with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
From 1989 to 1993, he was a budget analyst in the National Foreign Intelligence Program at the Department of the Army. From 1993 to 1995 he was senior budget analyst at the Consolidated Cryptologic Program for the US Army Intelligence and Security Command.
He spent the 1995-1996 period as director of resource management at Menwith Hill Station, a facility in the UK used to monitor Soviet communications during the Cold War, under the US Army Intelligence and Security Command.
From January 1997 to December 2002, Norquist was on the professional staff for the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defence, a term he followed with a stint as deputy undersecretary of defence in the office of the undersecretary of defence, comptroller, from December 2002 to May 2006.
In summer 2006 he took over as CFO at the Department of Homeland Security, a position he held until December 2008. That month, he left the government to become a partner at Kearney and Company, a CPA firm providing audit, accounting, and consulting services to the federal government.
He was at Kearney until May 2017 and was sworn in at the Pentagon the following month.
Lisa Hershman, acting chief management officer, roughly 30 years with defence firms, service providers, and consultants.
Lisa Hershman became acting chief management officer at the Pentagon on December 1, taking over for John Gibson, who became the Pentagon’s first CMO in early 2018 but was removed by Mattis in September for “lack of performance.”
With Shanahan, Norquist, and Hershman, the Pentagon’s top three officers are all in acting positions.
Hershman graduated from Clarkson University in upstate New York, where she studied engineering and management.
After college, she worked at General Electric in an engineering capacity, where she managed a portion of the Seawolf-class submarine program. She also worked as vice president at Icon Transportation, a private logistics provider for the home-entertainment industry, before joining Brightpoint, a telecommunications service provider, in 2002.
She left Brightpoint in April 2005, joining Avent, an electronic component distributor, as a senior vice president. She was there until March 2009, when she became CEO at Hammer and Company, a business education and research firm, holding that job until June 2011.
From January 2012 to April 2018, she was founder and CEO at The DeNovo Group, a business-consulting firm. Between January 2017 and April 2018, she was also interim CEO at Scrum Alliance, which offers education and support for the Scrum and Agile product-development systems.
In April 2018, the same month she took over as deputy chief management officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defence, Hershman became a member of the board of directors at 1st Source Bank, which has branches through Indiana and Michigan. According to Hershman’s LinkedIn profile, she still holds that position.
Michael Griffin, undersecretary for research and development, 5 years with a technology services firm that consults for the government.
A physicist and engineer, Griffin, born in 1949, has held a number of positions in academia, government, and private industry.
A certified flight instructor, Griffin holds seven academic degrees, beginning with a bachelor’s in physics from Johns Hopkins in 1971 and including a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola College.
He spent 13 years as a professor, teaching science and engineering courses at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington University. He has been lead author on more than two dozen technical papers and the textbook “Space Vehicle Design.”
His early career included stints as both chief engineer and associate administrator for exploration at NASA. He was also deputy for technology at the Strategic Defence Initiative Organisation, a precursor of the Missile Defence Agency.
His private-sector executive positions include president and chief operating officer at In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit private-equity firm that invests in support of US intelligence agencies, and executive vice president and chief technical officer at Orbital Sciences Corporation, which developed space and rocket systems for government and commercial clients. (Orbital merged with another firm to become Orbital ATK.)
In the early 2000s, Griffin was head of the space department at Johns Hopkins’ applied physics laboratory. In 2005, however, he rejoined NASA as administrator, holding that job until 2009. After spending time as a scholar and professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, he was chairman and CEO of Schafer Corporation from 2012 to May 2017.
Schafer provides technology services for the aerospace and national-security sectors. Its customers have included the Homeland Security Department; the Navy, Army, and Air Force; the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Energy, and NASA.
He was confirmed by the Senate in February 2018 as undersecretary of defence for research and engineering, acting as the Defence Department’s chief technology officer.
Ellen Lord, undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, nearly 15 years with defence contractor Textron.
As undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, Lord is responsible for matters related to acquisition, testing, contracts, logistics and materiel readiness, installations and environments, operational energy, the defence-industrial base, as well as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
Lord earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Connecticut College in 1981 and a master’s in chemistry from the University of New Hampshire. She had a long career at Textron, an industrial conglomerate that develops ground and aerial vehicles and related products.
Her positions there included managing plastics technology for Textron Automotive, vice president of strategic planning at Textron Systems from November 2004 to November 2005, vice president of Intelligent Battlefield Systems at Textron Defence Systems from November 2005 to November 2007, and vice president of integration management from November 2005 to April 2008, during which she led the absorption of aerospace manufacturing firm AAI Corporation.
From April 2008 to January 2011, she was senior vice president and general manager of AAI Corporation/Textron, overseeing sales of unmanned aircraft systems and electronic-warfare test and training systems.
During this time, according to Lord’s LinkedIn page, she “built strong relationships with government agencies,” like the Defence Contract Management Agency and the Defence Contract Audit Agency.
She was senior vice president and general manager of Textron Defence Systems from January 2011 to October 2012 and then president and CEO of Textron Systems from October 2012 until summer 2017, when she was nominated for her current Defence Department position.
John Rood, undersecretary for policy, 10 years with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
John Rood has held numerous positions inside and outside of government.
A 1990 graduate of Arizona State University, Rood began his career at the CIA, where in analysed foreign missile programs. That was followed in the late 1990s by a stint as policy adviser to Arizona Sen. John Kyl.
From May 2001 to September 2003 he was director of proliferation strategy at the National Security Council, followed by deputy assistant secretary of defence for forces policy from September 2003 until February 2005, when he became special assistant to the president and senior director for counterproliferation strategy at the National Security Council, a position he held until October 2006.
He then moved to Foggy Bottom, where he was assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation from October 2006 to September 2007. His last position in the Bush administration was acting secretary of state for arms control and international security from September 2007 to January 2009.
Rood then departed for Raytheon, where he was vice president of US business development from March 2009 until 2014, when he joined Lockheed Martin as vice president of corporate domestic business development. In March 2016, he became senior vice president at Lockheed Martin International, managing marketing and government relationships.
Before he could take his current position, Rood had a run-in with Congress over his ties to the defence industry.
During Rood’s confirmation hearing in November 2017, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked if he would recuse himself from discussions with other countries that could benefit Lockheed, which does business in 70 countries.
Rood did not give the “yes or no” answer Warren sought, prompting a contentious exchange. McCain joined in, telling Rood to provide a written answer “because obviously you are ducking the answer here.”
Elaine McCusker, acting comptroller, 30 years of government service.
McCusker was sworn in as deputy undersecretary of defence, comptroller, in August 2017. With Norquist’s elevation to Shanahan’s deputy, she takes over his day-to-day duties as Pentagon comptroller.
A 1989 graduate of the University of Dallas, McCusker got started in government as a congressional and government affairs liaison at Argonne National Laboratory from July 1994 to May 2000, according to government biographical page.
From June 2000 until January 2004, she was assistant director of federal relations at the University of Washington and cochair of the Coalition for National Security Research. From January 2004 until January 2007, she was a member of the professional staff for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
That was followed by a stint as special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, which ended in May 2008. During this time, she worked on the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program, a high-priority initiative to counter improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between May 2008 and January 2010, she was associate director for operations in the office of the undersecretary of defence, comptroller, and deputy director from January 2010 to May 2011.
McCusker spent May 2011 to August 2017 as director for research and analysis at the headquarters of US Central Command at MacDill Air Force base in Florida.
VACANT, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness
Robert Wilkie served as undersecretary of defence for personnel and readiness from November 2017 to July 30, 2018, when he left to take over as Veterans Affairs secretary. (He is currently facing scrutiny for associations with pro-Confederacy groups.)
James N. Stewart, who retired as a major general in 2014 after 37 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve, was sworn in as assistant secretary of defence for manpower and reserve affairs on October 22, 2018, and is currently performing the duties of undersecretary of defence for personnel and readiness.
Joseph Kernan, undersecretary for intelligence, career Navy officer
Joseph Kernan took over as undersecretary of defence for intelligence in December 2017.
He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1977, serving as a Surface Warfare Officer until 1981, when he became a Naval Special Warfare Officer.
He led Naval Special Warfare Command from March 2007 to May 2008 and commanded the US Navy’s 4th Fleet and Southern Command from June 2008 to April 2009.
He retired as a vice admiral in 2013.
After retiring, he was senior vice president for business development at SAP National Security Services from 2013 to 2017, overlapping with his time as chairman at NS2Serves, a veteran training and employment program.
He was nominated to be undersecretary of defence for intelligence in July 2017 and confirmed by the Senate in November that year.
‘These people’s backgrounds might be more complementary’
Having a Defence Department leadership stocked with people who’ve held positions with private-sector defence firms isn’t unusual.
“It’s true that the DoD was heavy on retired military in civilian positions and or business executives in civilian positions,” Peter Feaver, a Duke University professor and expert on civil-military relations, told Business Insider.
Defence-industry executives will bring experience from that industry unavailable elsewhere, said Alice Hunt Friend, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she focuses on civil-military relations.
“They’re going to get an understanding of the industrial base that’s pretty critical right now, and you’re also going to get business-minded people who are going to align with the president, who himself is very business-minded,” Friend added. “For all those reasons these people’s backgrounds might be more complementary than immediate concerns might convey.”
Every Republican administration could be expected to have a mix of retired military officers and business executives making up Defence Department leadership, Feaver said. What’s missing are civilian policy experts.
The absence of those civilian officials is indicative of hurdles the Trump administration has imposed on itself, Feaver added.
Reign of the technocrats
“One of the strengths of civilian leadership of the system is that you can get much greater diversity of professional experience and professional background coming out of civilian sectors,” like academics, politicians, business leaders, or technocrats, Friend said.
“That engenders greater breadth of thinking and greater breadth of expertise,” Friend added. “You’re also going to get more fulsome policymaking that way.”
Shanahan, Norquist, and McCusker were touted as technocrats when they were named for this positions in early 2017. (The White House emphasised that they were picked by Mattis.)
Current laws and oversight mechanisms are “pretty robust,” and the new House of Representatives leadership is “pretty seized with oversight,” Friend said, “so I’m not particularly concerned at this point” about those leading Office of the Secretary of Sefense.
What decisions Defence Department leadership makes going forward will depend in large part on Trump, who is likely to exercise more influence over the department after the exit of Mattis, who was seen as a bulwark between the White House and the Pentagon.
But legislators have already balked at the personnel Trump has picked to run the show.
After Rood’s hearing in November 2017 – which came after former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar was named for health and human services secretary and former Raytheon executive Mark Esper was confirmed as Army secretary – McCain said he would “not support any further nominees with that background.”
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