MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – In an effort to speed soldiers’ access to new technologies, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter returned to Silicon Valley to reorganize the new outpost he set up here a year ago. Carter named a slate of high tech executives from companies including Google and Apple to oversee the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) he created in April 2015 and vowed to set up similar units in Boston and other U.S. tech hubs.
Raj Shah, a security entrepreneur and former combat F-16 pilot, will act as managing partner over a new team overseeing DIUx. In a sign of the urgency of getting new technology to the military, Shah will report directly to Carter.
“I can’t afford to do that for everything in the department, [but there’s a] need for rapid decision making, the DoD is frequently not rapid and agile enough…[so] if I show from the very top agility” it will help, Carter said in a press Q&A.
“We’re taking a page from Silicon Valley,” creating DIUx 2.0, he said in prepared remarks heavily laced with tech language. “DIUx will use new kinds of contracting, for time-sensitive acquisition, moving at the speed of business,” he said.
Carter requested a $30 million budget for DIUx in the government’s next fiscal year and anticipates “co-investment from the military services…[to fund] non-traditional companies with emerging commercial technology…incubators and [grand challenge] prizes,” he said.
The new team working with Shah includes Isaac Taylor, an operations leader from Google-X. Taylor worked on its Google Glass, self-driving car and Cardboard virtual reality projects, helping launch more than 10 startups over 13 years.
Two other partners include Vishaal Hariprasad who co-founded Morta Security with Shah. The startup was acquired by Palo Alto Networks where he worked as a threat architect.
Partner Christopher Kirchhoff was a director of strategic planning and a senior advisor for the U.S. National Security Council. Previously he served as a special assistant to the Joint Chiefs.
As part of what Carter called “a new leadership model,” DIUx will also get its first reserve unit. It will be headed by Doug Beck, a naval reserve commander who won a bronze star for combat action and now is vice president of the Americas and Northeast Asia region for Apple, reporting to Tim Cook.
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