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Defense Innovation Board Makes Interim Recommendations

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2016 — During the first meeting of the new Defense Innovation Board today at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and board members discussed 11 interim recommendations the board offered to DoD for consideration.

Carter established the board in March, inviting as members 15 innovators from the private sector and academia to enhance the department’s culture, organization and processes. The DIB chairman is Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

The independent advisory board operates under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Government in Sunshine Act. Its next public meeting is scheduled in January.

The board members are LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, University of Texas Chancellor and former Special Operations Command Commander Navy Adm. William McRaven, Aspen Institute President and Chief Executive Walter Isaacson, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey Bezos, and Code for America’s Founder and Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka.

The board also includes Google Capital’s Vice President for Access Services Milo Medin, Instagram Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine, United Technologies Senior Vice President for Science and Technology J. Michael McQuade, Wharton School of Business Professor Dr. Adam Grant, California Institute of Technology Dynamical Systems Professor and Bioengineer Richard Murray, Harvard’s Robert Walmsley University Professor Cass Sunstein, computer theorist and co-founder of Applied Invention Danny Hillis, Broad Institute President and Founding Director Eric Lander and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson.

First DIB Meeting

“One of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to push the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box, and be more open to new ideas and new partnerships that can help our military remain what it is today … as we confront a changing and fiercely competitive world,” Carter said.

“That’s exactly why I created the Defense Innovation Board earlier this year — to advise me and future defense secretaries on how we can keep growing more competitive, stay ahead of our competitors [and] stay the best,” he added, “particularly by keeping DoD imbued with a culture of innovation in people, practices, organizations and technology.”

Board members already have spent time with airmen at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, sailors aboard ships docked in San Diego, soldiers and special operators at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, at U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, U.S. Cyber Command and other DoD installations, Carter and Schmidt told attendees.

“As a result of this initial fact-finding,” Carter said, “and based on the knowledge and experience each of you brings to the table from your private-sector lives in industry and in the academy — members of the board have made some preliminary observations and interim recommendations about certain innovative practices from outside DoD that might be useful to us.”

Interim Recommendations

Interim recommendations included the following:

— Appoint a DoD chief innovation officer to coordinate, oversee and synchronize innovation activities across the department.

— Establish a career track for computer science and a digital Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program.

— Build a culture of evidence-based, outcome-driven policies and experimentation by, among other things, offering bonuses, recognition, awards and other incentives for managers who promote innovation, give employees greater voice  and encourage creativity and divergent views.

— Direct Cybercom, working in coordination with the National Security Agency, to conduct a security review of every DoD system.

— Establish an institute for studying artificial intelligence and machine learning.

— Increase the speed and timeliness of acquisition processes by increasing the use of mechanisms for waivers and exemptions and offering incentives for quickly resolving concerns.

— Increase investment in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Strategic Capabilities Office, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, rapid equipping units and other small, agile, innovative organizations and create more connections among them.

— Establish a computer science resource –·a “human cloud” of computer programmers and software developers who are available on demand to swiftly solve software problems.


As a result of their initial fact-finding trips and based on their knowledge and experience, board members today discussed preliminary observations and their interim recommendations about innovative practices from outside DoD that might be useful to the Pentagon, Carter said.

“And I’m pleased that rather than going off and returning with your several-hundred-page report,” he added, “you’re here today to share these early findings with me and the public directly, and to solicit feedback as you begin the next phase of your work.

In his remarks, Schmidt said that the board was in its “user research phase.”

“We’ve been on submarines and watch floors and op centers and laboratories and flightlines,” he added, “because it’s interesting to the members, and because there’s nothing like understanding what people do and how they do it when making recommendations for change.”

Over the next months, the board will visit more military facilities and develop a valid set of recommendations, then over 2017 will monitor actions taken across the department on the recommendations.

“I couldn’t have asked for a group better qualified for this mission,” Carter said during his remarks.

“I’m grateful to these citizen-leader-innovators for taking the time from their busy schedules to do this. I don’t take it for granted for your selfless willingness to contribute to the defense of our nation, and make a better world for our children,” the secretary said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)