WASHINGTON — The White House today announced its intent to nominate John Whitley as the director of the Pentagon’s influential Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office.

Whitley, who entered the Pentagon as the Army’s comptroller in September 2018, is currently performing the duties of the office director. If confirmed, he would replace Robert Daigle, who departed the department last May.

CAPE serves as the department’s internal think tank, creating its own analysis of programs and strategies that are sometimes used to offset those crafted by the services. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has leaned on the office significantly since elevating from Army secretary, repeatedly citing CAPE’s work on such weighty issues as how to achieve a 355-ship Navy.

A veteran who served in the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion, Whitley has also worked as a senior fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Center for Naval Analysis; as director of program analysis and evaluation at the Department of Homeland Security; and as an operations research analyst within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has also held a number of positions with different universities.

An intent to nominate is traditionally only announced if the individual is going to be nominated shortly. However, there is no guarantee; in February, the Trump administration announced its intent to nominate Kathryn Wheelbarger as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, but that nomination has been held up, reportedly due to factions within the administration who view Wheelbarger at insufficiently loyal to Trump. Acting comptroller Elaine McCusker, on the verge of having the acting title removed, had her nomination pulled by the White House for similar reasons, despite heavy support from inside the Pentagon for her nomination.

Should Whitley be nominated, he would join William Jordan Gillis, nominated as the next assistant secretary of defense for sustainment, as Army officials joining Esper at the OSD level.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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