Innovative Defense Agency provides a template for tech innovation

DOD unit releases new innovation guidebook.

To capitalize on the private sectors innovations in drones and other autonomous systems, the Defense Innovation United Experimental (DIUx) released a Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) guidebook yesterday that offers a template other federal agencies can follow.

 “DIUx is opening up the DOD to a new vendor base many times larger than the vendor base the department works with today,” the guidebook states. “The CSO allows us to leverage the enormous amount of commercial research and development investment and quickly access cutting-edge technology.”

The CSO allows the agency to bypass the typical Federal Acquisition Regulation rules by which the Department of Defense (DOD) procures prototypes. While typical contracts drag on for months or years, the average length of time from contract award to prototype delivery has been 59 days, according to the guidebook.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter created the first DIUx outpost in Silicon Valley last year. The goal was to get game-changing battlefield technologies in the hands of warfighters. In its first year the agency awarded contracts for headphones that boost brain performance and high-speed drone companions to the F-35.

“Not only do we get a better outcome and better project, but it also saves a lot of time and money,” said Lauren Schmidt, pathways director at DIUx, in a DOD news release. “We’ve demonstrated through the CSO that DOD can move at the speed of business and be attractive to these companies.”

In addition to speeding up the DIUx acquisition process, Schmidt said “We’re making this information more widely available, so that others can hopefully build on our success with the CSO and really help to build the acquisitions process. We’re hoping that by spreading this across the department, that we can really drive innovation throughout DOD.”