Biden Taps Frank Kendall To Be Air Force Secretary

Frank Kendall

Frank Kendall Susan Walsh/AP

Former Pentagon acquisition chief has relevant experience defining threats and modernization needs, colleagues say.

President Joe Biden will nominate Frank Kendall, a former top Defense Department official in the Obama administration, to be Air Force secretary, the White House announced Tuesday.

Kendall’s extensive experience in “a lot of the key areas the Air Force will have to deal with, now and in the future,” will make him “one of President Biden’s best appointments in the Department of Defense, without question,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general with long experience in defense policy.

Kendall also has the data bent that the Air Force has a penchant for. During his time as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Kendall “had that sign over the door, ‘I trust in God, but all others bring data,’” Punaro said. “He’s very factually oriented.”  

A West Point graduate, Kendall is credited with updating antiquated acquisition practices through his Better Buying Power initiative.

As Air Force Secretary, he would oversee a number of multi-billion dollar projects with checkered histories. There’s the KC-46 tanker: Boeing must redesign the refueling system and make modifications to the refueling boom before the plane is deemed ready for war. Then there's the high costs of flying and maintaining the F-35 stealth fighter, part of what prompted a review of just how many jets the Air Force can afford. The Air Force is reviewing the makeup of its entire tactical fleet.

Dan Grazier, a military fellow at the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, said Kendall will step in at a critical time for the F-35, as the weapons program nears a final decision on full-rate production

“Mr. Kendall brings a great deal of experience to the position, but he also has some baggage,” Grazier said, noting Kendall went to work for defense firm Leidos after leaving the Pentagon in 2017. Grazier also questioned whether Kendall would view the F-35 program with as much scrutiny as he did in 2012, when he called the program “acquisition malpractice.” 

“The F-35 program is in a holding pattern at the moment as it is still at least a year away from crossing the legal threshold for full-rate production,” Grazier said. “He [Kendall] wouldn't be the person to make that final decision in this role, but he would certainly be in a position to influence it. 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.”

Kendall would also oversee a high-profile, classified effort to build the warplane of the future, called Next-Generation Air Dominance. During his previous tenure at the Pentagon, Kendall sold the project to Congress.

“We expect that he will bring an engineer’s perspective to autonomous/attritable weapons, networks, and weapons mix and will seek data to inform those perspectives,” Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, wrote in a Tuesday note to clients. “We believe he recognizes that ‘quantity has a quality of its own’ and will be supportive of the development of new weapons/systems that harness technology to create more military mass.”

If quickly confirmed, Kendall could weigh in on the Pentagon’s opinion of Lockheed Martin’s plans to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the acquisition and has extended its review, a signal that government regulators are scrutinizing the deal.

“He is likely to provide Air Force views on the Lockheed Martin-Aerojet Rocketdyne deal, which we presume he may not support,” Kendall said.

As the acquisition undersecretary, Kendall in 2015 expressed concern about consolidation within the defense industry when Lockheed purchased helicopter maker Sikorsky. Since then, there have been several mega mergers within the aerospace and defense sector.

Kendall is the second service secretary to be named by the White House, following its historic nomination earlier this month of Christine Wormuth to be Army Secretary. Depending on how quickly the White House sends the official nomination paperwork to the Senate and hearings take place, it could be June before either is in office, after the official drop of Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the timing of the nominations, even if they occur after the budget is out, “is about getting it right more than it is getting it fast.” 

“It’s not about trying to beat the clock on budget rollout,” he said at a briefing Tuesday. 

Defense News first reported Kendall would be nominated for Air Force secretary earlier Tuesday.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.