DOD NEWS, DEFENSE MEDIA ACTIVITY (MAY 11, 2016)
WASHINGTON—The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, is making a difference, and it will help to put new technologies into the hands of warfighters, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Mountain View, California, today.
Carter announced the formation of another technology hub to be built in Boston and introduced Raj Shah as the managing partner of DIUx.
The unit stood up last year as a way to get ideas and products from Silicon Valley into the Defense Department quickly. Shah spoke about the need for this in ways his fellow warfighters would relate to.
Shah, an Air National Guard F-16 pilot and Silicon Valley entrepreneur, spoke about flying an F-16 near the border or Iraq and Iran. “Unfortunately, while our aircraft had GPS systems, the software did not allow for moving maps with outlines of those borders,” he said. “As a pilot flying over unfriendly territory often at 500 mph at night, knowing whether we were on the Iranian or the Iraqi side of the border was a really big deal to us.”
And while the F-16s didn’t have the software, he said, private pilots flying Cessnas at home could load an app on their iPads and have no problems.
Transitioning that capability from the civilian world to the military “would end up costing many millions of dollars and take multiple years to deploy,” Shah said.
That is an example of what the DIUx is committed to overcoming, he said.
Technology is worthless without people who understand it and who can find ways to make it adapt to new requirements, Carter said. “Another way we’re investing in innovation is through people,” the secretary said.
Two-Way Talent Flow
The program has built “on-ramps and off-ramps” for technical talent to flow between DoD and the tech sector in both directions,” Carter said. The new Defense Digital Service brings in technologists for a tour of duty with the department, the secretary said.
“These are talented people who are coming into DoD just for a year or two, maybe one project,” Carter said. “But they make a lasting contribution to us and our mission, and also experience being part of something bigger than themselves.”
Already, these experts have helped DoD share information with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “They’re working with a team that’s developing a better and more secure next-generation GPS to be used by billions of people around the world, military and civilian alike,” Carter said.
Another team, he said, is improving the department’s systems for tracking sexual assaults to better understand these crimes and eliminate them.
“Later this month, they will work with a team to pilot one of the largest deployments of a commercial cloud computing platform—largest ever—to help streamline how we manage travel orders and reservations for DoD’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel, making it easier to use and more efficient [use] of taxpayer dollars,” Carter said.
Hack the Pentagon Project
They were also part of the “Hack the Pentagon” project, which already has found 80 bugs in the system that needed to be fixed, the secretary said.
The department has learned from DIUx and will learn more, Carter said. He then announced DIUx 2.0. “We’re not just iterating, we’re scaling,” he said. “Since creating DIUx, it’s become even clearer to me how valuable … this concept is of DIUx. And because America has many geographic centers of technical excellence, we already intend to open a second DIUx office to be located in the innovation hub of Boston, and there will be more.”
The secretary said funding will be increased for the effort. “In our budget for the coming year, we’ve requested $30 million in new funding to direct towards nontraditional companies with emerging commercially based technologies that meet our military’s needs,” he said. “With co-investment from the military services, this number is really just a starting point.”
These resources will mean capabilities that will ensure U.S. service members will maintain their advantage, the secretary said.
“DIUx will report directly to me,” Carter added. “I can’t afford to have everybody do that, but this is to signify the importance I attach to this mission, and also the importance of speedy decision making.”