Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) 2.0 Opened in Boston

Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Ash Carter formally opened a Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Boston this week, dubbed DIUx 2.0. Secretary Carter said that they chose Boston because it is an area demonstrating great innovation in biotechnology and the biosciences. Bernadette Johnson, Chief Technology Officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, was appointed as DIUx’s Chief Science Officer, and Air Force Reserve Colonel Mike McGinley is becoming active duty to be the military lead in Boston.

Secretary Carter also announced nine new appointees to the Defense Innovation Advisory Board (DIAB). Previously he had announced that the board would be led by Chairman Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc, and would also include LinkedIn Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman, U.S. Special Operations commander Bill McRaven, and the Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson. The board has been tasked with identifying innovative private sector best practices that could be of use to DOD. These best practices could be organizational, technological, operational, or how people and talent are managed. The board’s recommendations are due this fall. The current and prospective Board members are:

  • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Alphabet Inc. (DIAB chair)
  • Jeff Bezos, president, chairman and CEO, Amazon Inc.
  • Adam Grant, professor, Wharton School of Business
  • Danny Hillis, computer theorist & co-founder, Applied Inventions
  • Reid Hoffman, co-founder, LinkedIn, and partner, Greylock Partners
  • Walter Isaacson, president & CEO, Aspen Institute
  • Eric Lander, president and founding director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
  • Marne Levine, chief operating officer, Instagram
  • Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology, United Technologies
  • William McRaven, chancellor, University of Texas System
  • Milo Medin, vice president, Access Services, Google Capital
  • Richard Murray, professor, California Institute of Technology
  • Jennifer Pahlka, founder, Code for America
  • Cass Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author

The program was originally launched last year with an office in Silicon Valley. It was created as a way for DOD to more easily partner with tech industries. The effort was rebooted in May of this year when Secretary Carter changed its leadership, had it report directly to him, and appointed a Defense Innovation Advisory Board.

The program now also has its own contracting capability and budget resources. DIUx is employing an innovation engagement mechanism called a Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) to take advantage of flexible new authorities for prototyping granted by Congress. The CSO allows tech firms to bring ideas to DOD in the same way they would to other buyers of commercial technology, streamlining paperwork requirements and allowing the department to provide funding in less than 60 days after first contact with a firm and within 30 days after receiving a formal proposal.

The Secretary also said that DIUx is now divided into three teams: Engagement, Foundry, and Venture. The Engagement Team acts as a liaison between the military and business owners, introducing private industry innovators to the problems faced by the military. The Foundry team develops existing technologies until they can be put into use by the military. DIUX’s Warfighter-in-Residence and Entrepreneur-in-Residence programs match soldiers with industry engineers to rapidly design, prototype, and test new equipment and systems. And the Venture team seeks out new commercial technologies and attempts to adapt them to defense applications. They make research and development awards to companies ranging from start-ups to major tech companies. They also seek to match these projects with DOD customers for funding and staffing resources.

All of these new announcements are part of Secretary Carter’s efforts to ensure that the initiative lasts beyond his tenure at the helm of DOD.

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