As the Defense Department's chief weapons-buyer, Kendall is responsible for all Pentagon contracts—from weapons systems to logistical support. His programs make up more than half of the roughly $525 billion in the department's budget. Reading Barack Obama's book Dreams From My Father sparked Kendall's current career path. After meeting Obama at a 2007 fundraiser, Kendall volunteered on his campaign when the candidate was a White House long shot. Obama later tapped Kendall to serve as deputy undersecretary before he was promoted to his current position. He has been in the defense world for about four decades (and acquisitions for roughly 30 years), holding such positions as vice president of engineering at Raytheon and assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for strategic defense systems. Kendall, 64, is spearheading the department's initiative to make the defense acquisition system more efficient, and says he helped make progress "toward a [cost-conscious] culture in which valuing the money is really important to people," but he admits this is a "work in progress." Kendall, who spent 10 years on Army active duty, has a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the California Institute of Technology, an M.B.A. from the C.W. Post Center of Long Island University, and a law degree from Georgetown University. An attorney, Kendall has been active in the human-rights field, working with Amnesty International and Human Rights First. A Richmond, Mass., native, Kendall sails for the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron, even though he's a West Point graduate.