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Intel, acquisition and budget nominees for Pentagon announced

Aaron Mehta

President Joe Biden on Friday announced a trio of nominees to be undersecretaries of defense. Michael Brown, the head of the Defense Innovation Unit, was announced as the nominee for undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment (A&S), the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer. Biden tapped Ronald Moultrie, who has had a long career in the intelligence world, for the job of undersecretary for intelligence and security, the top civilian intelligence role at DoD.

Biden’s other nominee, Mike McCord, would serve his second stint as undersecretary-comptroller, the department’s top financial official.

McCord’s nomination was first reported by Defense News.

The three men represent the first DoD nominations announced since Dec. 30, a span of over three months.

Brown, a former CEO of Symantec, joined the DoD in September 2018 to lead DIU, a small office dedicated to increasing ties between the department and commercial technology firms. He has gained a reputation in Congress as a China hawk thanks to his co-authorship of a departmental report about Chinese influence in American tech companies.

While Brown does not have experience running major defense programs, sources say the Biden team wanted to bring in someone with experience from outside DoD for the A&S job and pointed to his software background as useful at a time when the department is increasingly leaning on digital tools. He will also have to manage the department’s procurement response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed weaknesses in the global defense supply chain.

Moultrie has held roles with the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as a Russian linguist in the US military. He retired in 2015 as the National Security Agency’s director of operations, joining a number of boards in the years since.

He published an article in 2020 on Worth.com outlining challenges he faced because of race throughout his career. Moultrie, who is Black, would join the department at a time when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is putting increasing focus on racial tensions within the military. “Writing this story has been cathartic,” he concluded in the article last year. “My reluctance has been overtaken by a sense of moral obligation to embolden others to come forward.” If confirmed McCord would return to the job he held in the comptroller’s office from June 2014 until the end of the Obama administration in 2017.

The comptroller serves as the chief financial officer for the Department of Defense, with oversight of the more than $700 billion defense budget. The position also comes with the responsibility of managing the department’s annual audit, an effort that began under McCord’s successor, David Norquist.

McCord, who also spent time as the deputy comptroller, was part of Biden’s transition landing team at the department. Since leaving government, he has held a number of different roles, including as director for civil-military programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service and on the board of trustees for the Aerospace Corp.

Aaron Mehta is deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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