The Insider

Former NASA chief emerges as leading nominee for new DOD innovation post

Tony Bertuca   | October 10, 2017

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is the top candidate to be President Trump's nominee to serve as the Pentagon's under secretary of defense for research and engineering, according to multiple sources.

Griffin, who was chief of NASA from April 2005 to January 2009 during the administration of President George W. Bush, most recently served as chairman and CEO of the Schafer Corporation until that company was acquired by Belcan LLC in May.

Repeated attempts to contact Griffin were unsuccessful.

Griffin's likely selection as the new USD R&E nominee, first reported by Defense News, comes as the Pentagon is realigning its acquisition system bureaucracy.

The USD R&E job was created by the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which also disestablished the under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Griffin's job as USD R&E, if confirmed by the Senate, will be to serve as DOD's de facto chief innovation officer. Meanwhile, another official will be selected to be the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

At present, Ellen Lord, a former Textron executive, is serving as the USD AT&L, but is expected to be the nominee for the USD A&S post when DOD completes its transition to a new management configuration early next year.

Griffin recently served as a panelist at the National Space Council, where he discussed the rapid militarization of space.

While at NASA, Griffin had a brush with controversy after he gave a 2007 interview with National Public Radio in which he said he was unsure whether global warming was a problem for human beings to "wrestle with."

The interview, should Griffin be chosen as the nominee, is likely to come up during his potential Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, where Democrats have grilled Trump's DOD nominees on climate change.

When Navy Secretary Richard Spencer appeared before the committee for his July 11 nomination hearing, he was asked about climate change and said he and the service were both “totally aware” of the threat it posed.

Defense secretary Jim Mattis has also weighed in on the matter in written testimony he provided to the committee in advance of his Jan. 12 nomination hearing.

Mattis wrote he is committed to ensuring the Pentagon "continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness."