Dr. William LaPlante, Ph.D. 1998

bill-laplante-headshot.jpgThe Honorable Dr. William LaPlante is the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) and advises the Secretary of Defense on matters concerning contract administration, acquisitions, logistics, materiel readiness, operational energy, and the acquisition workforce. 

Dr. LaPlante studied Engineering Physics at the University of Illinois and then went on to earn his master’s in applied physics at Johns Hopkins University and his doctorate in mechanical engineering here at The Catholic University of America. 

Dr. LaPlante completed his doctorate while working full time at  the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, where he served for 26 years in various roles, including, Chief Scientist and Technical Director for several large at-sea submarine security experiments (1993-1998); Program Area Manager for the Strategic Submarine (SSBN) Security Program (1998-2001); Business Area Executive for Undersea Warfare and Associate Department Head, National Security Technology Department (Undersea Warfare, Homeland Security and Biomedicine) (2001-2003); and Department Head, Global Engagement Department (2003-2011). During this period, he also taught on numerous occasions for Catholic University’s School of Engineering, offering classes in classical and digital control systems.

Dr. LaPlante then worked for the MITRE Corporation in McLean, VA, as senior vice president and general manager; overseeing the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, in addition to two federally funded research and development centers.

From 2014 to 2017, Dr LaPlante served as the Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. As Assistant Secretary, he aligned the service’s $43 billion acquisition enterprise budget with the Air Force vision and strategy. During his tenure, he forged a path forward on critical Air Force acquisition programs such as the B-21 long range strike bomber, while realizing nearly $6 billion in “should-cost” savings in other programs. In recognition of his outstanding performance, the Air Force Association awarded Dr. LaPlante the W. Stuart Symington Award for the most significant contribution by a civilian in the field of national defense. In November 2015, the Air Force bestowed on him its Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, the highest honor it bestows on a civilian employee. And in 2016, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program presented him with the General James Doolittle Award, in recognition of his contributions to U.S. air power.

In 2020, Dr. LaPlante became the President and Chief Executive Officer at Draper Laboratory; a nonprofit research and development company that develops advanced technology in areas of defense, security, energy, and health care. Dr. LaPlante has also served on numerous scientific boards and commissions focused on national security, including serving as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated Section 809 Panel, which performed a comprehensive review of Department of Defense acquisition policies, and provided efficiency and improvement recommendations for the Congress. He served as a multi-decade member of the Defense Science Board, chairing or serving on more than 20 important studies and task forces. He also served as a member of the Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, the Board of the National Defense Industrial Association, the U.S. Strategic Command Senior Advisory Group, and the Naval Research Advisory Committee.

Dr. LaPlante was confirmed by the United States Senate in April 2022 as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)). In this role, he is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for all matters pertaining to acquisition; contract administration; logistics and materiel readiness; installations and environment; operational energy; nuclear, chemical, and biological defense; the acquisition workforce; and the defense industrial base. Since becoming Under Secretary, Dr. LaPlante has played a critical role in providing security assistance to allies and partners around the world, especially for Ukraine. As the National Armaments Director for the United States, he has helped guide more than $30 billion to procure critical capabilities for Ukraine or replenish U.S. stocks while helping revitalize and strengthen the defense industrial base. 

For his many decades of national security leadership and his outstanding contributions to enhancing our nation’s security capabilities and efficiency, The Catholic University of America’s School of Engineering is proud to present the Honorable Dr. William A. LaPlante with the 2023 Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award.