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SOCOM’s James Geurts Nominated to Serve as Navy Acquisition Chief; Modly Nominated as Under Secretary

James F. Geurts, U.S. Special Operations Command acquisition executive and nominee to serve as assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. US Air Force photo.

The Trump Administration nominated U.S. Special Operations Command acquisition executive James Geurts to serve as the next assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

Geurts is a Senior Executive Service official and a retired Air Force colonel who in his last active duty assignment served as SOCOM’s deputy director of Special Operations Research, Development and Acquisition Center, and commander of the Joint Acquisition Task Force Dragon – a SOCOM and Air Force acquisition collaboration to rapidly develop and acquire SOCOM’s most urgent operational needs. He also previously served as SOCOM’s program executive officer for fixed wing aircraft.

Geurts was commissioned an Air Force officer after graduating from Lehigh University’s ROTC program in 1987. While in the Air Force he managed programs ranging from “intercontinental ballistic missiles, surveillance platforms, tactical fighter aircraft, advanced avionics systems, stealth cruise missiles, training systems and manned and unmanned special operations aircraft,” according to his Air Force biography. He retired as a colonel in 2009.

According to the Tampa Bay Times’ TBO.com website, “Geurts was described by a Tampa Bay Times columnist as ‘a budding rock star in Tampa Bay’s defense industry.’ Geurts was the driving force behind Thunderdome and Sofwerx, ongoing military-civilian idea incubators in Tampa Heights and Ybor City, to develop innovations for special forces needs. That includes the exoskeleton ‘Iron Man’ suit, formally known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit or TALOS.”

The White House announced the nomination on Sept. 7, and Congress will have to confirm Geurts before he can take over the job that was previously filled by Sean Stackley, who served as the Navy acquisition chief from July 2008 until January 2017.

The White House also nominated Thomas Modly to serve as the next under secretary of the Navy. Modly serves as a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Government and Public Services sector, and he is also the firm’s Global Government Defense Network Leader, where he coordinates the company’s work for defense clients around the world. In his work at PWC, Modly has focused on defense business transformation and defense-led stability and economic development missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a biography.

Modly previously served in government as the deputy under secretary of defense for financial management and as the first executive director of the Defense Business Board. He is a 1983 Naval Academy graduate, served as a Navy helicopter pilot, and taught political science at the United States Air Force Academy.