Bill LaPlante, who left the Pentagon in 2015, has spent the past six years working on technology the military desires. President Biden said Tuesday he would name the former Air Force chief of arms the Pentagon’s top arms buyer. politics reported first his nomination.
Autonomy, machine learning, and other software, to name just a few of these areas, were at the heart of LaPlante’s post-Pentagon roles, overseeing key technologies at Miter and Draper Labs, two nonprofit research and development organizations that support the defense department.
If the Senate approves this, LaPlante would have the chance to institutionalize many of these efforts in the Pentagon. But he also faces a number of immediate challenges, including a supply chain crisis that has resulted in increased costs and delayed weapons projects.
“LaPlante is well known by the Senate Armed Forces Committee and should have no problem with the verification process,” said Arnold Punaro, chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association, in a statement emailed.
Still, 22 other biden picks for Pentagon jobs are currently being hung in the Senate, Capital Alpha Partners’ Byron Callan wrote in a statement to investors. The White House has not yet identified candidates for 13 additional Pentagon positions. And many of the acquisition quarters within the office that LaPlante would oversee are manned by acting officials.
If confirmed, LaPlante would join two of his former acquisition colleagues in the Obama administration, current Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Secretary of State for Research and Technology Heidi Shyu.
Callan, the analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, said “Addressing the DoD software acquisition culture / practices” will be one of LaPlante’s top priorities. Other priorities should be to “make better use of the procurement tools provided by Congress to accelerate program development and procurement, and encourage new entrants, and … improve the DoD’s sustainability practices and guidelines,” Callan wrote.
LaPlante is also expected to help shape the Pentagon’s position on defense industry consolidation and determine the fate of a popular pandemic policy that pays contractors more money up front to create more liquidity within the supply chain, Callan wrote .
“He has a great background and understanding of the industry, which he has deep and deep respect for,” said Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association. LaPlante is on the board of directors of NDIA.
In an October 2020, LaPlante recognized a handful of changes to acquisition policy – including “mid-level rapid prototyping and acquisition pathways; Rapid Skills Offices in the Army, Air Force, and Space Force; extended other transaction authority; quick experiments; and pitch days where small businesses propose ideas and DOD takes a check on site â- with accelerated innovation.
“These are necessary tools that offer buyers flexibility and alternative approaches while at the same time freeing innovators from the uniform application of the sometimes Byzantine processes of the DoD,” wrote LaPlante in a Defense one The comment was co-written with Jamie Morin, a senior executive at the nonprofit Aerospace Corporation and a former Pentagon official with the Obama administration.
During his tenure as the Air Force’s top gun buyers, LaPlante oversaw a team that Northrop Grumman selected to build a new stealth bomber, something the military hadn’t done in more than three decades.
After leaving the Pentagon in late 2015, LaPlante worked for MITER Corp., where he oversaw the more than 4,000 scientists and engineers who assisted the Department of Defense. There, LaPlante focused on making the nonprofit organization’s government-funded research and development centers respond more quickly to new needs from the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. He oversaw efforts on the new nuclear command and control systems, automation, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, protecting satellites in space and speeding up the security clearance process.
LaPlante is also on the board of directors of Lift, a Detroit-based public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry and academia that works to develop and adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. He was also a member of the Defense Science Board, where he was co-chair of the Task Force on Gaming, Exercising, Modeling and Simulation.
In July, LaPlante was part of a group that met with Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks at Draper Labs’ headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. LaPlante promoted the nonprofit’s work in securing the microchips used in military weapons and other research and development initiatives.
“I truly believe this is part of serving our nation that gives us an advantage around the world,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, who attended this July session. “I believe in what we’re doing here.”