The Pentagon has removed its lead official responsible for executing the Defense Production Act to increase production of key equipment to combat the coronavirus pandemic, an administration official tells CNN.
Jennifer Santos, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, has played a key role in the Pentagon’s efforts to use the act to ramp up production of key items such as N-95 respirator masks and swabs needed for coronavirus testing.
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that Santos is moving from her current position to a role in the Navy.
“The Department can confirm that Ms. Jennifer Santos is moving from her current position as the Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy to the Department of the Navy,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said.
The official said they were “startled” by the development and the decision was not made by Santos’ immediate boss, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, but came from “the White House and interagency.”
CNN has contacted the White House for comment.
The Trump administration first invoked the Defense Production Act in an effort to compel GM to produce ventilators. Prior to that the administration had resisted invoking the act which dates back to the Korean War.
In recent days, Santos had been carrying out virtual engagements and phone calls with defense companies. She had also been working with the Treasury Department on how to prevent Chinese investors from gaining a foothold in strategically important companies, the official said.
Santos was appointed in the job in 2019 after her predecessor Eric Chewning was tapped to be chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
Prior to that she had experience in the private sector as well as on Capitol Hill working as a staffer on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. She also worked for the Air Force in finance and acquisition roles.
Politico was first to report the news.
CNN’s Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.