White House to tap DOD weapons testing lead for Navy acquisition role

Operational Test and Evaluation Director Nickolas Guertin (right) tours Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Operational Test and Evaluation Director Nickolas Guertin (right) tours Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Edward Cartagena/Defense Department

The White House intends to nominate current Defense Department Operational Testing and Evaluation Director Nickolas Guertin to be the service’s next acquisition head.

President Joe Biden will nominate the Defense Department’s current weapons testing leader to be the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, the White House announced Friday. 

If confirmed, Nickolas Guertin would be the Navy’s top acquisition executive and responsible for all of the Navy’s acquisition functions and programs.

Guertin was sworn into his role as the director of operational test and evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense last December after being confirmed by the Senate. Before taking on this position, Guertin did applied research on software-relient and cyber-physical systems at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.

“He has an extensive four-decade combined military and civilian career in submarine operations, ship construction and maintenance, development and testing of weapons, sensors, combat management products including the improvement of systems engineering, and defense acquisition,” the White House said of Guertin in its announcement of his nomination.

In his October 2021 testimony before the Senate for his current position, Guertin emphasized the need for cyber assessments of commercial cloud systems, telling lawmakers that the department should be able to evaluate the security of all its warfighting capabilities, but would need policy changes to do so.

The last person to hold the Navy acquisition role was James Geurts, who left the position at the start of the Biden administration after being confirmed in late 2017. Guertin will also have to be confirmed by the Senate for the role.