Pentagon reassigns COVID policy response lead

The Pentagon (Photo by Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock)

The Pentagon’s industrial policy chief, Jennifer Santos, who has been responsible for leading the Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has left her post.

Scott Baum, the principal director for industrial policy, will now serve in Santos’ role as the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy.

“The department’s commitment to closely partnering with the defense industry remains unwavering, and we will continue to identify and mitigate impacts from the COVID-19 national emergency to ensure readiness and modernization,” DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said, via email.

Santos had been in her current role less than a year, taking over as industrial base policy lead in June 2019. Since March, however, her main focus has been leading industry engagements, overseeing the DOD’s efforts to galvanize defense industry production of supplies and equipment needed for COVID-19 response and implementing the Defense Production Act (DPA).

As the industrial policy chief, Santos also focused on issues such as suspicious foreign investments, often called adversarial capital, and oversaw DOD’s Trusted Capital Marketplace, which linked venture capitalists with startups in key defense areas, such as drone manufacturing.

The Pentagon confirmed to FCW that Santos was moving into a new position with the Navy to “support critical projects” under the Navy’s acquisition chief James Geurts. FCW has reached out to the Navy for comment.

The Pentagon would not expound on the circumstances of Santos’ departure. Politico first reported the news, indicating the industrial policy chief was fired.

DOD has been struggling with supply chain concerns as coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. and worldwide have resulted in manufacturer plant closings and slowed production, particularly in the aviation and aerospace sectors.

Moreover, there’s been criticism over the Pentagon’s delayed response to rally industry leaders, including invoking the DPA, which allows the Pentagon to prioritize commercial production of needed items. DOD issued its first DPA contracts for respirator masks April 11.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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