It was a big week for personnel moves within the military’s acquisition leadership. Last Monday, Heidi Shyu, the Army’s top acquisition executive sent a note to staff saying she’d be moving on from government, and just two days later, her Air Force counterpart, Bill LaPlante did the same.
Also, one rung lower on the acquisition decision-making chain: Monday is Doug Wiltsie’s last day as the Army’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems. He’s moving from Fort Belvoir to the Pentagon, where he’ll lead the Army’s System of Systems Engineering and Integration (SOSE&I) directorate, the outfit responsible for, among other things, creating a series of integrated “computing environments” which tie together the service’s home station and battlefield IT systems.
As to the fact that two of DoD’s three service acquisition executives announced their departure in the same week, it would be interesting if there were a conspiracy to overthrow all of the military’s SAEs, but this appears to be a bona fide coincidence.
Shyu has overseen the Army’s acquisition apparatus in whole or in part since 2010 — quite a long run as these jobs go, and it’s not unusual for anyone in her position to decide to move along as an administration draws to a close. She will officially leave the Army at the end of January.
“I take great pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish together as one team and one family,” Shyu wrote in an email to staff. “We have worked to streamline the acquisition process, although there is more to be done to ensure that our systems and programs can keep pace with technological progress.”
LaPlante’s departure is probably a bigger deal if one’s looking at continuity of leadership. It seems likely that both the Army and Air Force will now have interim acquisition chiefs until the start of the next administration, and the positions he and Shyu now occupy will take on greater heft with the passage of the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the SAEs significantly more authority over milestone decisions on their own services’ programs.
But up until LaPlante became the assistant secretary for acquisition just last year, the Air Force had already gone two full years without a Senate-confirmed leader in that post.
He said he had initially intended to leave the Air Force even earlier and return to work at his previous employer, the Mitre Corporation, but decided to stay with the service until the Air Force made an award for the new long-range strike bomber, one out of three of the Air Force’s three major acquisition priorities.
“This has been the best job I’ve ever had,” LaPlante said. “It’s been an honor, but now I need to honor a long planned commitment I made to my family before I entered government service.”