Pentagon’s tech chief promises stronger budget, support for DIU

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Heidi Shyu speaks to Defense Writers via zoom at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, Jan. 13, 2022. (DoD photo by United States Marine Corps Sgt. Taryn Sammet)

WASHINGTON: With the outgoing director of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit raising concerns about the level of support his office has received, the department’s chief technology officer said he wants to find the replacement process and has exposure to the commercial world.

Testifying Thursday in front of the House Armed Services Committee’s Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems subcommittee, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu said she considered DIU has “Very strong support” and the government’s budget is frustrated by the agency.

Arena recent interview with Breaking Defense, DIU Director Mike Brown, who announced his plans to leave his four-year anniversary in September, said the agencyTODAY had 20% cut in funding from fiscal 2021 to 2022) and said the unit needs “leadership in the department.”

Shyu promised to increase funding for the unit in the FY24 budget request after questioning from Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Who said Congress, not DoD, has driven investments toward DIU.

“You just said you support TODAY 100%, but your budget is basically flatlining it from FY21, you factor in inflation that’s about 90%,” Moulton said. “How do you think we are going to do that? 10% less than what we gave it two years ago?”

Moulton called for a tenfold increase in funding, referencing a 2020 Future Defense Task Force report by HASC.

“You got to realize, by the time I came in… [the] budget was pretty much baked two weeks before I came in, ”Shyu said. “So my opportunity to influence is this year, in FY24. So you’re going to see a much stronger request for funding for FY24. ”

Shuu said the “biggest challenge” DIU has faced trying to get the public from moving community into moving innovation into production.

As Brown’s tenure comes to an end and Shyu starts looking for Brown’s replacement, she wants to address this gap

RELATED: Pentagon’s ‘Glaring Weakness’: Bureaucracy Hampering Commercial Tech Adoption

“Because that’s where the gap is – a lot of small companies, great ideas, they’ve produced a lot of prototypes – it’s this funnel that’s going down to production,” she said. “And it’s the pull from the community acquisition that we need. So I think that’s where I think having someone … with experience on both sides would help.

“Understanding the acquisition process and having exposure to the commercial world can help to pull it faster, rather than just being extremely frustrated by the bureaucracy internally,” she added. Brown, a former CEO at Symantec, had no experience in working within the Pentagon’s acquisition system when he took over DIU in September. 2018.

In an effort to help address that gap, DoD will be rolling out a new initiative in the next few months called “Strategic Capital” they said. Most recent DoD in the process of creating the new office.

Shyu also didn’t lay out a specific timeline for finding Brown’s replacement, but added that she extended the role of Brown’s deputy by one year in order to have someone “with a skill set that has been here for the last several years” while she looks for a new DIU director.

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