Pentagon officials went to the cradle of innovation this week to recruit tech gurus and entrepreneurs who may not be familiar with the opportunities available in the defense contracting market.
A recent Silicon Valley tour by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and weapons procurement chief Frank Kendall will be followed later this month by a visit from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. They are sending a loud and clear message that the Pentagon leadership is not just parachuting into the valley for a quick mission but is there to become a permanent resident of the tech community.
One of the Pentagon’s talking points in its outreach to Silicon Valley is that the Defense Department wants to be a “smart customer of commercial technology.” If the rhetoric is matched by action, the Pentagon would have to act more like a commercial buyer, which means casting aside the usual red tape and compressing purchasing cycles that usually takes years down to months or weeks.
The Pentagon recently stood up a Silicon Valley office, called Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. Work and Kendall during a recent visit there declared that DIUx will serve as a mediator for companies that have not traditionally worked with the Defense Department and need help navigating the defense system. The motivator for this outreach is worry that the Pentagon’s weapons and information systems are not keeping up with a rampant tech boom in the United States and around the world.