Frank Kendall III

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Frank Kendall III
Frank Kendall DOD photo.JPG
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
In office
October 6, 2011 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byAsh Carter
Succeeded byHon. Ellen Lord
Personal details
Born (1949-01-26) January 26, 1949 (age 70)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUnited States Military Academy (B.S.)
California Institute of Technology (M.S.)
Long Island University (M.B.A.)
Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.)
OccupationArmy engineer, Lawyer
Known forPrincipal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Frank Kendall III (born January 26, 1949) is an American lawyer serving under President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.[1][2][3][4]

Kendall is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.[5] Commissioned in the US Army, he served in Germany during the 1970s before transferring to the Army Reserve, during which time he also lectured at the West Point. He resigned commission as a lieutenant colonel. He also holds a Master's degree in aeronautical engineering from California Institute of Technology, a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) from C.W Post Center of Long Island University and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center.[5] At the USMA, Kendall was a classmate of Jack Reed, who is currently serving as senior United States Senator from Rhode Island.

Throughout an extraordinary career of service, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), the Honorable Frank Kendall has contributed significantly to our nation's security and well-being.  He is the epitome of a soldier, statesman, and businessman. From his childhood participation in church groups, to his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, through his many political appointments and business leadership roles, to his recent tenure as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) where he was a recognized expert in acquisition strategy, national budget priorities and technology initiatives, Frank has personified the motto "Duty, Honor, Country." This was most recently demonstrated in January 2017 when Frank, Ash Carter, and Bob Work were awarded Aviation Week Persons Of The Year 2016 for improving how the Pentagon does business.[6] He is truly a leader of character.

Frank's life of service began on a small farm in Massachusetts. The oldest of four children, Frank lost his father, at the age of ten. His father was a World War II Navy veteran who served throughout the war in Arleigh Burke's "Little Beaver Squadron" in the South Pacific. Raised by his mother, Frank grew up with a passion for service to country and the values that guide its policies and institutions. He was both drawn to serve in the military and inspired by the manned space flight program.

Frank's early life established the foundations of character and dedication that prepared him for a distinguished life of service. His parents instilled in him from an early age the importance of doing the right thing. The loss of his father at age ten forced Frank to take on responsibility in the family, thus establishing a life-long pattern of leadership and service. Farm life and participation in organized sports further cultivated a strong work ethic, perseverance, and an appreciation of teamwork, qualities that have also stayed with Frank throughout his career.

He obtained a four year ROTC scholarship and attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a year prior to entering West Point in 1967. He graduated in 1971 ranked ninth in his class. At graduation, he received the Rodney Smith Memorial Award for excellence in engineering

Following graduation and airborne school, Frank attended the California Institute of Technology where he received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. After the Officer Basic Course at Fort Bliss and the Hawk weapons system course, he reported to the 3rd of the 39th Air Defense Artillery Battalion in Hanau, Germany, where he served for the next three years. During these years, Frank honed his leadership skills in a stressful, 24 hour seven days a week operational environment dealing with the full range of the post Viet Nam Army's issues. Frank completed a successful company level command in 1977, after which he attended the Advanced Course in El Paso and reported to West Point to serve as an assistant professor in the Mechanics Department.

At West Point he taught mechanical engineering, volunteered to serve as the head coach of the varsity fencing team, obtained a Master's Degree in Business Administration, and served as the Department's Executive Officer, all while teaching first, a core engineering course, and then two electives. He left the Academy six months early when he was selected to be the Aide to the Army's Ballistic Missile Defense Systems Command (BMDSCOM) Commanding General, MG Grayson Tate in Huntsville, Alabama.

Frank served with distinction as the BMDSCOM CG's aide for a year. Following which, he transitioned to a technical management and leadership role in BMDSCOM. He served as a Project Officer leading a major component in the development of the Sentry ballistic missile defense system. In 1982, after 11 years of active Army service, Frank made the incredibly difficult decision to leave uniformed service and transition to civil service. He left active duty on a Friday and returned the following Monday as a GS level civil servant with essentially the same duties. He remained active in the Army reserves until he retired as an LTC. Over the next few years, Frank advanced with unprecedented rapidity through the civil service ranks, taking on increasing responsibility at every opportunity.

In 1983, President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a program that was directly attributable to hastening the end of the Cold War. Frank played a key role in this initiative, first leading the Army's systems analysis and engineering efforts and later in the Secretary of Defense's office. While still at BMDSCOM, Frank became the manager of the Systems Analysis Office and the Army's lead for the concept definition of the ground-based portion of the Strategic Defense Initiative's layered defense concept. He served as the Army's representative on the "Pilot Architecture Study" which established the technical baseline for the SDI. In 1986, as a result of Frank's leadership and professionalism, he was selected to be Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategic Defense programs in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

In his first position in the Secretary of Defense's office, Frank was responsible to the Secretary for the SDI program as well as for other multi-billion dollar strategic defense programs such as the Anti-Satellite Program and the Air Defense Initiative. Frank served in this capacity through the end of the Reagan Administration. During this period he testified before the Congress, authored a key report on the application of lasers to the anti-satellite mission, and served as executive secretary for a Defense Science Board study that led to the restructuring of the SDI program.

At the beginning of the first Bush administration, Frank volunteered to fill the vacant political position of Deputy Under Secretary for Tactical Warfare Programs and subsequently took responsibility in the Secretary of Defense's office for all conventional weapon systems acquisition programs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. He controlled a portfolio worth tens of billions of dollars annually. He held this position for the next two and a half years in an "acting capacity". In 1992, he was appointed to the position permanently and continued until he left in 1994. For his service during this period, Secretary of Defense William Perry presented Frank with both the Presidential Rank Award for Senior Executives, and the Defense Distinguished Public Service award .

In 2009, President Obama nominated Frank to serve as the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. The Senate confirmed him in March 2010. In May 2012, after a year and a half as Principal Deputy, Frank became first, the acting Under Secretary and then, after again being nominated by the President, he was confirmed by the Senate for a second time as Under Secretary. He remains in this position today. Frank is unique among the five DoD level Under Secretaries in having statutory authority to provide direction to the Military Departments in the area of defense acquisition. He supervises a workforce of over 150,000 people spanning program management, engineering, testing, contracting, logistics and related fields. He personally serves as the Milestone Decision Authority for the largest defense programs. In addition to responsibility for acquisition programs, Frank oversees all DoD research and engineering activities, logistic activities, all DoD installations, and all nuclear weapons related activities. He has supervisory authority over ten DoD agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Defense Contract Management Agency.

Over the past six plus years, Frank has worked for Under Secretary Carter and then for Secretaries Panetta, Hagel, and Carter. He has worked tirelessly to improve the results of the defense acquisition system. A partial list of his accomplishments includes the following:

  • Systematically improving the performance of the defense acquisition system through three iterations of the Better Buying Power initiatives emphasizing cost consciousness, professionalism, and technical excellence in defense acquisition;
  • Chairing the Warfighter Senior Integration Group, the DOD senior level team that provides rapid acquisition to the fights in Afghanistan and against ISIL;
  • Supervising the successful DoD and Department of State transition in Iraq;
  • Overseeing the withdrawal of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Successfully leading the Nuclear Weapons Council coordinating Department of Energy and DoD strategic deterrent programs;
  • Acquiring a transportable chemical weapons materials destruction capability in anticipation of the US taking possession of Syrian chemicals for destruction;
  • Personally leading the effort to acquire a new healthcare management software system for the DoD;
  • Bringing numerous defense programs, such as the F-35 fighter, under cost and schedule control; and
  • Leading the effort to ensure technological superiority against emerging threats in China, Russia, and other states including establishing the Aerospace Innovation Initiative and the recent Long Range Research and Development Planning Program.
  • The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce inducted Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the Department of Defense, as its Public Sector Partner of the Year 2016.[7]
  • Frank's support of more than $10,000 to the 1971 Class Legacy Gift make him a major giver.

In recognition of his dedication and service, Frank received his second and third and fourth awards of the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal from Secretaries Panetta, Hagel, and Carter respectively, as they left office. This is the highest award the Secretary of Defense can award. He continues his service to the country by his support to the Center for Strategic and International studies as a senior advisor, as a Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center for National Security and Law, as a member of the Board of Directors of Leidos Corporation, and a member of the Northrop Grumman International and Technology Advisory Boards – all with the same distinction and dedication to Duty, Honor, and Country that have inspired and motivated him throughout his career.

Whether working for the government or in the private sector, Frank been a defender of human rights. In addition to his involvement with several human rights organizations, Frank pursued a human rights focused law degree at Georgetown University Law Center by attending evening classes, while working during the day as a consultant on defense programs. He graduated with honors in 2004.

Frank has distinguished himself through several human rights actions. He served for four years as the Chairman of the Board of the Tahirih Justice Center, an organization dedicated to assisting immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. He also represented a number of Tahirih clients seeking asylum pursuant to the Violence Against Women Act. He was elected to, and served on the Board of Amnesty International's US organization. He served as a consultant to Human Rights First, helping to organize a group of over thirty retired general officers who assisted Senator McCain in securing the passage of his anti-torture legislation. He attended proceedings at Guantanamo as a human right observer. Throughout these activities, Frank has shown that he embodies the highest principles of the Academy, always acting out of a strong sense of duty and principle.

Frank also served his country from positions in industry and through voluntary service on advisory boards. He served the defense establishment from positions as the Vice President of Engineering at Raytheon, as a private consultant to large and small defense firms, and as a Managing Partner at Renaissance Strategic Advisors. He also distinguished himself by taking on leadership roles as a member of the Army Science Board, as the vice chair of the Defense Intelligence Agency Advisory Board, and as a consultant to the Defense Science Board. Frank chaired important studies on light ground combat vehicle survivability, innovative application of new technologies to national security, and science and technology intelligence.

Throughout his career as an Army officer, member of the Senior Executive Service, corporate executive, and now the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Frank's life of service and high achievement has always been guided by the ideals of Duty, Honor, Country. Clearly, Frank's career in both the government and private sectors has been exemplary and a model for graduates of the United States Military Academy. His life and work are illustrations of what West Point represents and the values it seeks to instill in its graduates.

In January 2015, a report by the Defense Business Board and consultants from McKinsey & Company discovered DoD was spending $134 billion, 23% of its total budget, on back-office work, and that the back-office bureaucracy staff of over one million people was nearly as great as the number of active duty troops.[8] According to the report, DoD's purchasing bureaucracy staff of 207,000 would be among the top 30 private sector employers in the United States.[8] On January 22, 2015, the Board then voted to recommend adoption of McKinsey's five-year plan to cut $125 billion in waste.[8]

Under Secretary Kendall responded to the management consulting by asking "Are you trying to tell me we don't know how to do our job?" and that the report's conclusions were "essentially a ballpark, made-up number".[8] Kendall then argued that he could not achieve any efficiencies and, instead, that he needed to hire 1,000 more staff.[8] After Secretary Chuck Hagel was replaced by Ash Carter the next month, Kendall warned Deputy Secretary Robert O. Work that the McKinsey report could "be used as a weapon" against the defense budget.[8] Secretary Carter then replaced the Board chairman, classified the McKinsey results as secret, and removed the report from public websites.[8]

After Navy Secretary Ray Mabus gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute highlighting the McKinsey report, Under Secretary Kendall wrote to him asking "please refrain from taking any more public pot shots" and "I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse."[8]

In his civilian life Kendall has performed pro bono human rights work.[4][9] According to his official DoD biography he served on the board of directors of Amnesty International, of Human Rights First and of the Tahirih Justice Center. He has traveled to the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, as a human rights observer.


  1. ^ S. HRG. 112–745 (112th Congress, 2012).
  2. ^ "Senator Lifts Holds on Most Nominees". New York Times. 9 February 2010. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". The Whitehouse. 2009-07-30. Archived from the original on 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2009-08-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b "Frank Kendall: Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics". United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 2013-04-26. Mr. Kendall is an attorney and has been active in the field of human rights, working primarily on a pro bono basis. He has worked with Amnesty International USA, where he served as a member of the Board of Directors, with Human Rights First, for whom he was an observer at Guantanamo, and with the Tahirih Justice Center, where he was Chair of the Board of Directors.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ a b "Frank Kendall: Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics". United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 2013-04-26. Mr. Kendall is an attorney and has been active in the field of human rights, working primarily on a pro bono basis. He has worked with Amnesty International USA, where he served as a member of the Board of Directors, with Human Rights First, for whom he was an observer at Guantanamo, and with the Tahirih Justice Center, where he was Chair of the Board of Directors.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Bruno, Michael (6 January 2017). "Aviation Week Persons Of The Year: Pentagon's Carter, Work and Kendall". Aviation Week & Space Technology. January 9–22, 2017.
  7. ^ "Frank Kendall Named Public Sector Partner of the Year". Federal News Radio. 18 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Craig Whitlock; Bob Woodward (5 December 2016). "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste". The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  9. ^ Frank Kendall (2008-04-16). "Report from Guantanamo: military commissions a failure in progress". The Jurist. Archived from the original on 2011-10-16. Retrieved 2011-10-16. Last week I traveled to Guantánamo Navy Base as a monitor for Human Rights First. I observed pretrial hearings in the cases of Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi, and Omar Ahmed Khadr. The ostensible goal of the military commissions is to provide fair trials for a subset of the Guantánamo prisoners being held as "unlawful enemy combatants." I must report that the commissions are not on the path to success. Success is probably not even possible under the Military Commissions Act (MCA) or the rules that implement it, but the hearings I attended convinced me that the implementation itself is also deeply flawed.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ash Carter
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
Succeeded by