Carter Overhauls Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Effort, Unveils DIUx 2.0

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks with new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) Managing Partner Raj Shah after delivering remarks at DIUx in Mountain View, Calif., May 11. Photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian CadizDefense Secretary Ash Carter returned to Silicon Valley last week to announce sweeping changes including new leadership to his project to inject commercial technology innovations into the military.

Carter named Raj Shah, an Air Force National Guard F-16 pilot and technology startup CEO, as the new managing partner of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) in Silicon Valley. Shah will replace DIUx director George Duchak, but the unit will report directly to Carter.

“Going forward, DIUx will report directly to me,” Carter said on May 11 in a speech to DIUx in Mountain View, Calif. “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. And I’m committed to that in DIUx, and I’m going to do my part very directly to make sure that occurs.”

Shah will lead a team that will feature a flat leadership structure and a combination of military reservists and tech startup business leaders. Joining Shah is Isaac Taylor, head of operations for Google X; Vishaal Hariprasad, a Air Force Reserve captain and cybersecurity startup founder; and Chris Kirchhoff, a civilian adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a lead author of the White House’s Big Data Report.

Carter commended the work of Duchak and his team pointing out that many will stay at DIUx 2.0 while Duchak will apply the lessons learned at DIUx 1.0 to helping transform the Defense Department’s Research and Development agencies.

“I’m extremely grateful to George for launching just a path-breaking initiative,” Carter said. “Getting DIUx 1.0 off the ground; trying out a whole lot of new things is exactly what I wanted; identifying potential partners. And now, we have the opportunity to build on his success.”

Carter’s shakeup to DIUx follows recent criticism from the House Emerging Threats and and Capabilities subcommittee, which proposed limiting DIUx’s funding in 2017 until Carter issues a report to Congress on how he plans to use future funds.

The Pentagon has also received feedback from the tech leaders who are skeptical whether military leadership is willing to move fast enough to get startup companies on contract. Many have said the military’s acquisition structure is still entirely too slow making working together impossible.

Carter did highlight some recent successes out of his Silicon Valley effort. He said the Pentagon has had more than 1,400 hackers sign up for its “Hack the Pentagon” program that has so far uncovered 80 vulnerabilities the Defense Department has since addressed.

“All this helping us be more secure, and as you’ll see in coming weeks, at a fraction of the price,” Carter said.

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