WASHINGTON — Dr. Bill LaPlante testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 16 during his nomination hearing to be the next assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.
“I’ve spent over 28 years around systems technologies, acquisition programs; touching all aspects of those programs for all services,” he said. “This experience along with my time on the Defense Science Board offers firsthand impressions of Defense acquisition.”
Many of those years were spent at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and eight more spent as the department head for the University’s Global Engagement Department before moving to MITRE as the Missile Defense Portfolio director.
“In all that time I’ve formed impressions and opinions on the challenges of acquisition,” LaPlante said. “I come from a community that desperately wants to make a difference; a community that wants to find the game changing technology needed by the warfighter and get it into production; a community that wants to invent a clever way to do contracting so that we finish a development contract on time — I come from a community that just wants to make a difference.”
During the hearing, LaPlante was questioned by committee members on the time it takes to develop and field weapon systems, the importance of science and technology investment and how to speed up cyber acquisition.
In his response on the importance of science and technology during a drawdown he highlighted how the U.S. military has used technological superiority as an advantage in all conflicts and that the military must continue research or risk losing the advantage.
On cyber acquisition, LaPlante stressed the service must learn what the vulnerabilities are in our weapon systems and work to reduce risks, a task that may sound simple but is actually very difficult. He said resiliency must be built into systems but the time required to design and acquire a weapons system makes that difficult.
“A problem two years ago is not a problem today, and what’s a problem today we couldn’t have imagined two years ago,” LaPlante said. “So, anything that will help us build resiliency and get the compliance part of the system to be much quicker would be very helpful.”
If confirmed, LaPlante will follow Sue Payton who left the position in April 2009. LaPlante currently serves as the principal deputy, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.