Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws

Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Defense Innovation Unit director Mike Brown, withdrew from consideration on Tuesday, Defense News has confirmed.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by Defense News, Brown said he was withdrawing because an inspector general investigation into hiring practices at DIU was expected to delay consideration of his nomination by up to a year.

”While I am confident the Office of the Inspect General will ultimately find no wrongdoing on my part, I know there are other qualified candidates who can oct on the urgent business of making our acquisitor process faster and more cost-effective,” Brown said in the letter. “I must put the interests of the Department above my own enthusiasm for serving as Under Secretary for Acquisitions and Sustainment.”

Brown said he looked forward to continuing in his role as director of the Defense Innovation Unit.

As undersecretary, Brown would’ve overseen a budget of more than $100 billion for major defense programs such as the F-35, carrier elevators or speeding up the software acquisition process. He would have been highly influential over defense industry matters and been responsible for maintaining America’s military edge.

Brown has headed up the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outreach arm since 2018 and worked to connect small startups working on innovative technologies with DoD components. Brown’s nomination was praised by observers, including several former senior DoD officials, because of his tech background and understanding of the challenges nontraditional contractors face working with the DoD.

Brown joined government in 2016 as a White House presidential innovation fellow. In that role, he wrote a detailed report on the threat the Chinese government posed to the U.S. venture capital system.

Under Brown’s guidance, DIU has transitioned increasing amounts of projects over to DoD components. In 2020, DIU transitioned 11 projects, up from four in 2018. DIU’s biggest achievement under Brown’s leadership was providing an alternative to Chinese-made small drones under a DIU project called Blue sUAS that made trusted drone options available to the whole federal government.

He previously served as CEO of cybersecurity software giant Symantec.

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Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.