Top DOD weapons tester tapped for new Navy job

By Tony Bertuca / September 2, 2022 at 3:43 PM

President Biden intends to nominate Nickolas Guertin, who was confirmed as director of operational test and evaluation less than a year ago, to be the Navy's new assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, according to a White House announcement.

Guertin was confirmed as DOT&E in December 2021.

“He has an extensive four-decade combined military and civilian career in submarine operations, ship construction and maintenance, development and testing of weapons, sensors, combat management products including the improvement of systems engineering, and defense acquisition,” the White House said.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some lawmakers criticized Guertin’s office earlier this year for releasing a package of annual weapons evaluations that restricted information previously available to the public.

Bryan Clark, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, commented on how unusual it is for the Pentagon’s DOT&E to switch jobs in the middle of an administration.

“It is unusual,” he said in an email. “DOTE is a pretty thankless job and not one that sets you up to be an innovator like the Navy needs in the ASN(RDA) position. The DOTE job is very much about operating within the traditional acquisition process and not seeking shortcuts or creative ways to speed fielding.”

Still, Clark said, “Guertin is much more of an innovator than the usual DOTE, and I think he will bring a background in the existing acquisition process and a desire to make it work better. And DOTE is where a lot of new programs, especially unmanned and commercially-derived systems, have trouble. His background in test and evaluation may set him up well to reform it from the outside as ASN.”

The Navy RDA for which Guertin has been nominated has been vacant since James “Hondo” Guerts left the job at the start of the Biden administration.