The Military’s Tech Matchmaker Is Getting Ready to Open Its Wallet

Defense Secretary Ash Carter leans to listen to a reporter's question during a news conference, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in Cambridge, Mass. Carter appeared in Cambridge to formally open the second office of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

AP / ELISE AMENDOLA

AA Font size + Print

Defense Secretary Ash Carter leans to listen to a reporter's question during a news conference, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in Cambridge, Mass. Carter appeared in Cambridge to formally open the second office of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

Carter says DIUx will also get a new Austin branch, its third after Boston and Silicon Valley.

The Pentagon’s tech-firm matchmaker is poised to open its wallet, along with a new office in Austin, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Wednesday.

The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, which has so far funneled $3.5 million to a handful of tech startups firms, has plans to fund another 22 projects to the tune of $65 million.

DIUx connects smallish companies of the sort that populate Silicon Valley with potential customers inside the Defense Department. For every dollar DIUx puts toward a new technology or company, a partner military branch or command contributes $3. For instance, it brokered a $1-million contract, awarded Sept. 1 by Naval Special Warfare Command, to San Diego-based Shield AI to build small, self-guiding drones.

The announcement of the Austin office, DIUx’ third after Silicon Valley’s Moffett Field and another in Boston, may indicate that the innovation cell is hitting its stride. When Carter announced initial plans for DIUx in April 2015, the news was greeted with high expectations. Then innovators came to Moffett Field, met with Pentagon officials … and went home to wait. Critics charged that for all its promise, the unit was too slow to make deals and move money. It just wasn’t moving at the speed of business in Silicon Valley.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act charged “outreach is proceeding without sufficient attention being paid to breaking down the barriers that have traditionally prevented nontraditional contractors from supporting defense needs, like lengthy contracting processes and the inability to transition technologies.”

In May, Carter announced a change in leadership, an extra $30 million in requested funding, and a pledge to open a second office in Boston.

“Some of what it’s taught us is not about DIUx’s shortcomings so much as about our shortcomings as a department as a whole,” Carter said. “I think we need to admit when we have to change.”

Folks close to Carter have said that he remains deeply, personally committed to the effort, and would open a DIUx cell in every city in America if he could.

“I created DIUx last year because one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America’s wonderfully innovative and open technology community,” Carter said.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download
  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

    Download
  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.