Nominee to Lead Pentagon Purchasing Withdraws Amid Investigation

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Michael A. Brown, Director of Defense Innovation Unit
Michael A. Brown, Director of Defense Innovation Unit, poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va, Nov. 01, 2018. (U.S. Army/William Pratt)

The Biden administration's nominee to be the Pentagon's top weapons buyer has withdrawn his nomination.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed at a news briefing Wednesday that Michael Brown took himself out of the running to be the Defense Department's undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

In the letter, which was obtained by Military.com, Brown said he was stepping aside because an inspector general investigation into his hiring practices at the Defense Innovation Unit would hold up his nomination by as much as a year, and he did not want to slow the department’s work down.

"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 effective," Brown wrote. "I must put the interests of the department above my own enthusiasm for serving as the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment."

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Inside Defense first reported the news.

Brown remains the head of the Defense Innovation Unit, which he has run since 2018, Kirby said.

Defense One reported in April that the IG was looking into allegations Brown sidestepped federal hiring rules at the Defense Innovation Unit, but had not yet launched a formal investigation.

Brown is alleged to have given six employees special treatment during hiring, such as tailoring job descriptions to those candidates' abilities to ensure they would get the job.

-- Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this story.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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