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Former Pentagon weapons buyer tapped as Air Force Secretary

Frank Kendall, shown here in 2014 in Ft. Lee, Va., in his role as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, is President Joe Biden's nominee for Air Force Secretary. Photo by Misha King/DoD
Frank Kendall, shown here in 2014 in Ft. Lee, Va., in his role as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, is President Joe Biden's nominee for Air Force Secretary. Photo by Misha King/DoD

April 27 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will nominate Frank Kendall, a former top Defense Department official in the Obama administration, as Air Force secretary.

If confirmed, Kendall -- who served as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from 2012 until January 2017 -- would serve as the top top civilian in charge of the Air Force and Space.

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Kendall currently serves as independent consultant, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Senior Advisor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, according to a White House press release announcing Kendall's nomination along with several other national security nominees.

He would replace acting Air Force Secretary John P. Roth, who stepped into the role on an interim basis in January, Stars and Stripes reported.

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Kendall has a master's in aerospace engineering from CalTech and an MBA from C.W. Post Center of Long Island University -- and a J.D from Georgetown University Law Center. Per his White House biography, he's done extensive pro bono legal work in human rights law.

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He was also director of tactical warfare programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, assistant deputy undersecretary for Strategic Defense Systems and served 10 years on active duty with the Army.

Kendall has also held a number of private industry roles -- including vice president of engineering for the then-Raytheon Company, where he managed engineering functions, and internal research and development.

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Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general with long experience in defense policy, told Defense One Kendall is "very factually oriented," and as a top weapons buyer for the Pentagon had a sign over his door reading, "I trust in God, but all others bring data."

Dan Grazier, a military fellow at the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, also told Defense One Kendall would be stepping in at a critical time for the F-35, which is nearing a decision on full-rate production.

The weapons program has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, with Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., saying last week that the Defense Department should not expect more money for the F-35 or purchase orders in excess of the Pentagon's budget -- which had become commonplace in the last few years.

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Kendall is credited with updating and streamlining military acquisition practices through his "Better Buying Power" initiative.

Dan Grazier, a military fellow at the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, noted that in 2012 Kendall called the F-35 program "acquisition malpractice."

"We can only hope that he retains some of his earlier skepticism and doesn't use his influence to rush even more flawed aircraft into production before the testing plan can be completed," Grazier said.

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