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Pentagon Technology Official Aims to Hasten Innovation Processes

By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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As cyber and data security remain among the Pentagon’s top priorities, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics underscored the importance of distribution, investment and private industry collaboration at the D3 Innovation Summit here today.

At the half-day interagency event hosted by the State Department, Frank Kendall noted the speed of innovation, research and development in industry and outlined DoD’s intent to tap into that expedience to more effectively steep U.S. missions in the cyber culture.

“A lot of resources are being invested in new technology outside of security and outside the Department of the Defense, applying those applications and making use of the internet are among the most important tools,” he said.

Infusion of Nontraditional Ideas and Talent

Kendall described the emergence of DIUx, or Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, which primes the DoD to better leverage the infusion of nontraditional technical ideas and talent. 

DIUx, Kendall explained, not only aims to create a hub for enhanced communication with, knowledge of, and access to innovating, high-tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs and leading edge technologies, but also will ultimately whittle long cycles of research and development time for programs such as major weapons systems.

“We’re trying to accelerate that process,” Kendall said, “because our opponents around the world do have access to those commercial technologies immediately, as soon as they’re available in many cases.”

Of modern adversaries, Kendall said DoD’s assessment of its arrows in the quiver revealed an overarching issue.

“Cyber is a ubiquitous problem … brought about by the fact that we’re all connected to it -- we don’t know how vulnerable we are,” he acknowledged. “We’ve made great strides at the Department of Defense to protect ourselves, … but again, there are a lot of unknowns.”

The undersecretary also reported that while cyber is a rapidly-changing field available to the masses, harnessing its power requires more than mere access. “Cyber is at the point where … a great many people can learn the technology and use it,” he said.

Kendall noted, however, that a deeper level of innovation requires specialized knowledge to build the tools to maintain an advantage over opponents. “Once those tools become available,” he said, “there will be a surge of innovation of a different type.”

Tough Budget Climate

Foreign policy and mission requirements drive DoD’s technology endeavors, but often those strides are stymied not by a lack of innovation, but by a lack of resources, Kendall said. And as tensions persist with North Korea and Iran amid limited fiscal resources, Kendall added, the budget solution is to keep cyber and its security prominent in future fiscal proposals.

According to the State Department website, the summit showcased revolutionary technologies developed by interagency teams across the hosting agency, DoD, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The summit also featured the D3 Pitch Challenge, an interagency call for submissions that demonstrate the United States’ use of technologies to advance its defense, diplomacy and development goals.

Of 500 employee submissions across the State Department, DoD and USAID, six finalist teams presented their proposals before a senior government panel, featuring Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other officials.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)