Elaine McCusker

Elaine McCusker

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Highly successful executive with senior level experience and a diverse portfolio of skills gained through complex leadership positions in budget development, resource allocation, policy analysis and performance management in the private sector, academic community, government service and on Capitol Hill. Superb reputation as a visionary and generous leader, innovative problem solver, team-builder and program manager emphasizing stewardship and return on investment in support of the nation's security. Experience includes a successful history as a key member of CEO-level management teams in large organizations focusing on problem definition, solution development and implementation. Demonstrated aggressive, positive leadership supporting national security objectives through analytically based resource options, creative management and communication, and strategic coalition building.


Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC (2020-Present)

  • Research, writing, and engagements focused on defense strategy, budget, and innovation; the

U.S. military; and national security. (https://www.aei.orglprofile/elaine-mccusker/)

Acting Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Pentagon, Washington, DC (2017-2020)

  • Senate-confirmed political appointee. Drove a nearly 18% increase in defense spending from 2017 to 2020 (average annual budget of $694 billion) to support National Defense Strategy lines of effort to build a more lethal force, attract new partners and allies and reform business operations for accountability and affordability.
  • Led analysis supporting the Department's review of $106 billion in programs and initiatives to reduce non-core and' lower priority functions and realign $7 billion to higher priority lethality capabilities.
  • Routinely made multi-billion-dollar decisions impacting the global military enterprise.
  • Chaired the Financial Improvement and Audit Remediation Board with the Chief Management Officer. Closed 25% of audit findings, conducted full property and inventory assessments, enhanced cyber security, and provided oversight of priority actions within 24 separate audits on the path toward an enterprise-wide clean financial statement audit opinion.
  • Developed and implemented the Chief Financial Officer of the Future vision. Established the Comptroller Data Transformation Office to advance the single-source-of-truth for personnel, logistics, human resource, and financial data to support data analytics and improve business and programmatic decision-making
  • As the Department's senior financial manager, directed the training and certification of an expert financial management workforce of more than 50,000.

Director, Resources and Analysis (J8), U.S. Central Command (2011-2017)

  • Directed the programming, budget, and financial management for U.S. Central Command. Developed and executed a strategy to obtain two new contingency authorities and close to $26 billion for OPERATION Inherent Resolve over a 5-year period.
  • Directed command experimentation. Managed an Extended User Evaluation for a light attack air concept employed by general purpose forces with conservative savings estimates of $ 15K per flying hour compared to the current approach. The concept has since been embraced by the Air Force and Special Operations Command with the potential to deliver a critical capability for the low-end fight while saving billions.
  • Modernized the Command Campaign Assessment process to measure progress and inform commander strategic, operational, and tactical decision-making to better allocate resources — forces, equipment, and funding. Established a strategic modeling and simulation capability for war plans to inform planning discussions and decisions.

Deputy Director, Operations - Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller (2010 - 2011)

  • Modernized the Department's contingency operations budget development, execution, and reporting, resulting in improved transparency, better interagency alignment, and increased output from coalition support investments.
  • Managed the Department's largest and most dynamic appropriation through numerous parallel budget discussions and developed recommendations for leadership on all products and decision documents with a financial component related to operation and maintenance and international or contingency operations, including joint operations in support of international disaster relief.

Associate Director, Operations, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller (2008 - 2010)

  • Supervised diverse staff specializing in international programs and associated policy and legal challenges, including an overhaul of the process for evaluation and reimbursement of Pakistan's support of U.S. operations.
  • Managed key Iraq and Afghanistan contingency authorities and appropriations totaling more than $9 billion in monthly expenditures for: Commander's Emergency Response Program, Iraq and Afghanistan Security Forces Funds, Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund, Coalition Support Funds, Global Train and Equip, Lift, and Sustain, Security and Stabilization, and Afghanistan Infrastructure programs.

Special Assistant, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (2007-2008)

  • Synchronized efforts across the Department of Defense on the Joint Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle program as it became the Department's largest acquisition program. Organized and executed a weekly senior level forum for early identification and mitigation of challenges resulting in unprecedented speed of delivery of life-saving capabilities to forces in combat.
  • Led enterprise policies and processes related to IVRAP program execution, including the establishment of a decision body within the Joint Requirements Oversight Council specifically for allocation of B/R-AP vehicles among the Services in theater, and policies for Foreign Military Sales, joint program staffing and management, budget development, and coordination of correspondence to Capitol Hill, other agencies, and the media.

Professional Staff Member, Senate Committee on Armed Services (2004-2007)

  • Drove pertinent sections of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including provisions such as: Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship for service program; and an initiative for the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of blast injuries.
  • Provided research and recommendations to Senators conducting oversight of Department of Defense programs on contracting, Iraq reconstruction, services acquisition policy, Special Operations Command, science and technology, test and evaluation, manufacturing technology, small business concerns, defense laboratories, federally funded research and development centers, technology transition, technical workforce and information assurance and systems security.

Assistant Director, Federal Relations, University of Washington (2000-2004)

Co-Chair, Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR)

  • Secured federal resources for University of Washington education and research by providing advocacy for the University in energy, defense, oceans, forestry, agriculture, and environment issues. Translated complex scientific research into layman terms for Congress and the public.
  • Led the strategy, business, and advocacy activities of CNSR including coordination of joint conferences for Capitol Hill, the Department of Defense, the Office of Management and Budget and research communities and all membership and press relations.

Congressional Government Affairs Liaison, Argonne National Laboratory at The University of Chicago (1994-2000)

  • Educated key lab personnel on Congressional processes, including budget, appropriations, and authorizations and federal rulemaking as it related to lab concerns.


  • Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service
  • Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service Award
  • Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Medal
  • Navy Superior Civilian Service Awar
  • National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges Outstanding Achievement Award