Mike Brown, the Defense Innovation Unit head who had been nominated earlier this year to be the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, has withdrawn his candidacy.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, obtained by Breaking Defense, Brown cited an ongoing investigation by the Office of Inspector General — first reported in April by Defense One — as the reason for withdrawal. That investigation appears poised to take more than a year, Brown said, tying up the nomination process. 

“While I am confident the Office of Inspector General will ultimately find no wrongdoing on my part, I know there are other qualified candidates who can focus on the urgent business of making our acquisition processes faster and more cost-effective,” Brown wrote in the letter. “I must put the interests of the Department above my own enthusiasm for serving as the Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment.” 

Brown, a former CEO of cybersecurity firm Symantec, joined the DoD in September 2018 to lead DIU, a small office dedicated to increasing ties between the department and commercial technology firms. The rare Trump administration appointee to have been kept on at the Pentagon by the Biden team, Brown over the years has gained a reputation in Congress as a China hawk thanks to his co-authorship of a departmental report that warned Beijing is actively trying to buy into the defense supply chain.

His nomination was backed by a number of notable defense figures, including Ellen Lord, who served as A&S head during the Trump administration, and former House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry. 

The IG complaint, filled by a former DIU official, targeted Brown’s hiring practices, claiming his team improperly hired individuals and that DIU altered contracts to award bonus funds to specific employees at some companies. Sources in DIU have consistently said the complaints are without merit and have described the complainant as more disgruntled employee than whistleblower. 

Regardless of how the report pans out, the process has scuttled Brown’s chances. He intends to return to running DIU, which he described as being key to “challenge the status quo” for the department. Stacy Cummings will continue to perform the duties of the A&S role, which she has been filling since Lord’s departure in January. 


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