Ellen Lord

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment

Fast Facts

Ellen Lord

DoD acquisition official

Industry: Defense
Key previous position: President of Textron Systems
Education: Connecticut College; U of New Hampshire
Notable fact: Worked in the private sector for 30+ years

NJ50 Profile

The Pentagon spends hundreds of billions of dollars contracting to thousands of defense companies every year. Ellen Lord is charged with streamlining and protecting that sprawling supply chain.

Confirmed by the Senate in August 2017, the former Textron executive took over acquisition and sustainment exclusively in February of the following year, after the Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics office was split in two.

That change was mandated by Congress, which has grown increasingly worried about the vulnerability of the supply chain to cyberattacks. In October, Lord unveiled the Pentagon’s new cybersecurity certification protocol, set to go into effect in January.

Lord has tried to shore up the defense supply chain with several other initiatives. She’s reformed export-control regulations to expand defense suppliers’ potential customer base, and has begun publicly grading how the Pentagon’s most expensive programs are performing for combat commanders.

With the rapid pace of technology development, military planners have also warned that existing acquisition timelines often lead to the military paying for outdated equipment. Lord has helped spearhead an effort to simplify acquisition requirements for contractors.

The defense industry has noticed.

“I’ve never seen somebody in that kind of position that is more open and transparent,” said Hawk Carlisle, CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association. Carlisle worked closely with Lord while he was commander of the Air Combat Command and she was at Textron, and later when Lord was vice chair of the NDIA.

“She’s moving the needle, which is hard to do in the bureaucracy that is the federal government,” Carlisle said. “She works closely with Congress to get the legislative changes that we need … and then Ellen will take them into the DoD, and she’ll get the regulatory reform going.”

As acquisition chief, Lord also has to manage a turbulent funding stream from Congress, as lawmakers brawl over authorizations and appropriations bills. The military’s budget has been chained to partisan debates in recent years.

“She is going to have to manage this … and work with Congress to get an appropriation, to get an authorization,” Carlisle said. “That’s a huge challenge for her, and she’s in the heart of that.”
Harrison Cramer