One of the few Bush administration holdovers remaining in the Pentagon as President Barack Obama nears his second term, Sean J. Stackley, is the Navy’s top ship buyer.
Stackley, whose official title is assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, oversees all Navy and Marine Corps weapons programs, a broad portfolio with an annual budget that exceeds $50 billion.
But it is the ship programs that many on and off the Hill most immediately associate with Stackley, a former Navy surface warfare officer who served as a Senate Armed Services Committee staffer before taking his current job at the Pentagon in July 2008.
One congressional source said Stackley, who previously managed the Navy’s LPD-17 amphibious ship, has gained the respect of people on the Hill and is credited with bringing shipbuilding programs — which have long been known for escalating costs and schedule delays — under control. Stackley’s strategy has been to engage contractors in extended, and sometimes painstaking, discussions about the costs presented in their bids. “He is driving costs down by forcing shipbuilders to prove their numbers,” the source said.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, a Republican senior House Armed Services Committee member, said Stackley is very intelligent, has good intentions and is willing to work with lawmakers on the Navy’s shipbuilding plans.
Stackley frequently testifies on Capitol Hill, telling the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee in April that the Navy’s plans for a fleet of about 300 ships will allow the United States “to maintain our maritime superiority today and for the foreseeable future.”
And, while he has been tough on industry, Stackley also recognizes that shipbuilders are a “strategic national asset” that must survive any downturn in defense spending.
“The range of capabilities that characterize today’s fleet required an industrial base with extraordinarily diverse manufacturing capabilities, underpinned by a skilled workforce and a unique design and engineering capability,” he told the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in September.
Stackley’s next task could be his toughest yet: managing a nearly 10 percent cut to shipbuilding budgets under a looming sequester.
Leaders from military and veterans service organizations joined Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a press conference to urge the Senate to replace a provision in the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for veterans. Wicker, Ayotee, and Graham earlier called for a bipartisan solution to replace the $6.3 billion in cuts to military retiree benefits.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.