Esper names White House lead tech official as acting Pentagon research chief

By Justin Doubleday / July 13, 2020 at 11:38 AM

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has named White House Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios as the acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering, after former R&E chief Mike Griffin and his deputy abruptly resigned two weeks ago.

Kratsios took over as the Pentagon's technology chief on July 10, according to a Defense Department announcement.

"In seeking to fill this position we wanted someone with experience in identifying and developing new technologies and working closely with a wide range of industry partners," Esper said in the announcement. "We think Michael is the right person for this job and we are excited to have him on the team."

Kratsios has served as the White House CTO since 2017. During his time there, he focused the administration's technology agenda on a range of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, commercial drones, STEM education and advanced manufacturing.

Before he joined the Trump administration, Kratsios was principal and chief of staff at Thiel Capital, an investment firm founded by Peter Thiel.

Meanwhile, Mark Lewis will serve as Kratsios' deputy in an acting capacity, while also retaining his current role as the director of defense research and engineering for modernization.

The reshuffle at the Pentagon's top technology jobs comes after Griffin and his deputy, Lisa Porter, announced their resignations last month. In a joint email to staff, the pair wrote that "a private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together."

Griffin recently restructured the Pentagon's top technology priorities, putting microelectronics in the No. 1 position and fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications at No. 2. When he first started as R&E chief in 2018, Griffin placed an emphasis on hypersonic vehicles as the Pentagon's top technology initiative.