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Navy Quietly Replaces Chief Weapons Buyer

Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) launching at Ingalls Shipbuilding on June 5, 2021. HII Photo

The civilian designated as the Navy’s chief acquisitions officer was replaced with no notice on Tuesday, USNI News has learned.

Jay Stefany, who was performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (RDA), for the last year and a half was replaced on May 3 by Tommy Ross, according to a memo reviewed by USNI News.

Prior to Tuesday, Ross served as the chief of staff to the Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and acting Navy secretary Thomas Harker from the start of the Biden administration in January 2021.

Ross spent his early career in Congress working for Democratic legislators in the House and Senate including former Sens. Tom Daschle and Harry Reid. During the last two years of the Obama administration, Ross worked at Pentagon as the deputy assistant secretary for Security Cooperation. Ross worked for BSA, the global commercial software trade group, during the Trump administration before returning to the Pentagon in 2021.

“Mr. Jay Stefany, who has superbly been fulfilling the functions and duties of ASN RD&A for the past sixteen months, will resume his duties as the Principal Civilian Deputy, ASN RD&A, where he will continue to work with industry on shipbuilding excellence and acquisition innovation, two of the Secretary’s top priorities,” reads a statement Del Toro’s office provided to USNI News on Friday.
“This move recognizes the important work happening across the Department’s research, development, and acquisition efforts, as we continue to ensure that our sailors and Marines have the right mix of capacity, capability, modernization, and readiness.”

Stefany will retain many of the duties for the RDA in the deputy role, including testifying to Congress, two people familiar with the move told USNI News. For example, Stefany will testify before Congress on the Navy budge for the next two scheduled posture hearings.

The move comes as the Navy is preparing to defend a flat shipbuilding budget that only requests eight battle force ships in Fiscal Year 2023 and cuts more than 20 ships over the next five years.

The Navy has been without a top acquisition officer since James Geurts left the position at the end of the Trump administration. The Biden administration has yet to put forth a nominee.

Stefany, a career civil servant, became the deputy, ASN RD&A in 2018. Prior to that job, he was the executive director, Amphibious, Auxiliary and Sealift Office, Program Executive Office, Ships.