Mike Griffin Departing DOD

Mike Griffin Departing DOD

Mike Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD/R&E), announced today that he is leaving on July 10 along with his deputy, Lisa Porter.  In a joint email, they said they are pursuing a private sector business opportunity.

Mike Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Credit: DOD

Griffin, who was NASA Administrator in President George W. Bush’s second term (2005-2009), was originally appointed as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD/ATL) in 2017 while a reorganization was underway pursuant to the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.  That law required that the position of USD/ATL be split into an Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD/R&E) and an Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD/A&S).  Ellen Lord was USD/ATL and segued into USD/A&S, a position she still holds today.

Griffin was confirmed as USD/R&E in February 2018.  Since then he has focused attention on hypersonics, directed energy, and 5G.  He championed creation of the Space Development Agency (SDA) to spearhead development of “disaggregated” or “proliferated” low Earth orbit systems of a large number of small, comparatively inexpensive satellites instead of a few large, vulnerable satellites for certain national security missions.  His hand-picked choice to lead the SDA, Fred Kennedy, resigned after just four months on the job, however.  It now is headed by Kennedy’s former deputy, Derek Tournear, amid debates over when (but not whether) it should be made part of the U.S. Space Force.

The USD/R&E also oversees the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), and DOD laboratories.

Also leaving is Griffin’s deputy, Lisa Porter.  She served as head of NASA’s aeronautics division when Griffin was Administrator.  After leaving NASA, she served in several positions in the Intelligence Community and was Executive Director of In-Q-Tel (IQT) and Director of IQT Labs before signing on as Deputy USD/R&E in 2018.

In a joint email to colleagues today, Griffin and Porter said they were taking advantage of an opportunity in the private sector and will leave DOD on July 10.

As has been our practice, this is from Mike’s email, but equally from both of us.  We want to inform you that we have submitted our resignations from our present positions, effective 10 July.  A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together.  It has been a pleasure leading this great team over the past few years.  We greatly appreciate your hard work, diligence, integrity, and devotion to technical excellence and technical truth in furtherance of the R&E mission.  We wish you all the very best. 


Lisa and Mike

No announcement has been made as to who will take over as USD/R&E.  One possibility is Mark Lewis, whom Griffin chose to be Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Modernization.

The day after Griffin and Porter announced their plans, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued a statement praising their work for DOD and wishing them well in the future.

“Yesterday, I received letters of resignation from Dr. Mike Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and Dr. Lisa Porter, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Both Mike and Lisa will leave the department effective July 10. During their tenures, Dr. Griffin and Dr. Porter advanced critical work on the department’s modernization priorities. They leave an office with a legacy of excellence in the research and development of technology that ensures American military advantage on land, at sea, in the air and in space. Mike and Lisa have my sincere thanks for their dedicated service to the department and the nation, and I wish them the very best as they enter this new chapter of their lives.”  Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

It is not unusual for appointees in a president’s first term to leave at about this point, but having the head of an organization and the deputy depart at the same time is uncommon. There has been a lot of churn in DOD during the Trump Administration and in some respects this is just more of the same.

Note: This article has been updated.

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