Defense IT

Carter brings DOD/industry innovation project to the East Coast

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who last year launched a partnership with Silicon Valley companies focused on innovation, today formally announced what he called “the East Coast node” of that effort in Cambridge, Mass.

The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, is a Defense Department effort to find innovative technologies, including those from non-traditional partners—Carter mentioned that ideas could come from established defense contractors, commercially focused companies or start-ups working out of a garage—in order to keep DOD ahead of the curve on new technologies and speed up the research, development and acquisition process.

Since announcing the Silicon Valley initiative last year, which included the opening of DOD’s first permanent outreach post in the area, DIUx has started several initiatives. Among them is research into flexible electronics, a $171 million effort (with funding from both DOD and industry) led by the Air Force Research Laboratory and supported by the Flex Tech Alliance, which is backed by companies such as Apple, Boeing and Lockheed Martin; along with universities such as Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Among other efforts in the Silicon Valley are the Athena Project, staged in the spring as an effort to work with start-ups to accelerate the acquisition process, and the "Hacking 4 Defense" project to explore new ways of developing technologies and deploying them faster in response asymmetrical warfare.

By expanding DIUx efforts to the East Coast, Carter is, at least in part, responding to concerns expressed by Congress in the spring while proposing the National Defense Authorization Act. A subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee objected to focusing the program on one geographic area. DOD announced its intentions of a Boston/Cambridge office while also said offices were under consideration in other locations, including Austin, Texas, Seattle and Cincinnati.

By opening a DIUx office in Cambdridge, which was originally announced in May, and inviting non-traditional vendors into the fold, Carter said DOD is looking to expand the defense-industrial base.  

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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