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Carter Reviews New Technologies From DoD’s Silicon Valley Unit

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, March 4, 2016 — Five tech organizations pitched their technologies to Defense Secretary Ash Carter this week during a technology showcase hosted by DoD’s six-month-old forward operating unit, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental in Silicon Valley.

So far, the unit has identified 22 pilot projects with tech companies and start-ups that have never before worked with the Pentagon. Five projects are being executed, and 17 others are in various acquisition phases, DIUx officials said in a statement.

Carter visited DIUx as part of a trip to Silicon Valley -- his third as defense secretary -- and to Seattle to discuss technology and cybersecurity initiatives with officials at some of the region’s top tech companies.

The technologies range from cyber and intelligence analysis to drones and new ways to bring DoD and Silicon Valley together, DIUx Director George Duchak said.

Technology Outpost

In San Francisco this week, Carter spoke with Ted Schlein, a general partner at Menlo Park venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which focuses on early stage tech companies in enterprise software and infrastructure markets.

“I would like our people to learn more about what's out here,” Carter said. “That's one of the reasons why I have this Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. By the way, it's called experimental because we're still experimenting with it, and it's going to change, and we're going to keep innovating with it.”

DIUx can help technology entrepreneurs “understand places in the Department of Defense where they can secure funding for ideas that they think are relevant to defense,” he said, “and it’s a place where our people can come and connect with all of you.”

Metrics of Success

The metrics of success for the unit include “projects that we use, money that we spend,” Carter added. “That means people. So down the road, … if there are a couple of 10s, a couple of hundreds of people who have come into the Department of Defense and made a big difference, – well, … that would be a measure.”

Carter officially opened DIUx in August in the heart of Silicon Valley, and the unit has since hosted individual meetings with more than 500 start-ups, entrepreneurs, executives and corporations and hosted several signature events, Duchak said.

DIUx also has familiarized several DoD leaders with opportunities to work more closely with Silicon Valley innovators and entrepreneurs.

“Just as we’ve worked hard to introduce entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley to DoD and opportunities to work more closely together, we’ve worked equally hard to contextualize what we’ve learned here for the Pentagon’s senior leaders,” the DIUx director said.

Funding Pilot Projects

Because DIUx has hosted many visits by Pentagon senior leaders, the unit will have access to science and technology and research development, science and technology funding to execute pilot projects with Silicon Valley vendors, the director said.

Current DIUx projects will support offices across DoD, including the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, U.S. Army Medical Command, Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Navy 10th Fleet and others, according to the DIUx statement.

Feature areas for the technology showcase included the following, the statement said:

-- Dynamic network mapping;

-- End-point protection through micro-virtualization;

-- Wind- and solar-powered unmanned maritime vehicles;

-- Automated textual analysis and content curation.

-- Lean startup methodology applied to DoD problems; and

-- Dynamically formed aerial and terrestrial mesh networks.

Duchak said DIUx outreach in Silicon Valley is part of an important effort to maintain and increase the U.S. military’s competitive advantage.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)