Director of the DIU: looking beyond reform to keep the technological lead
More than procurement reform is needed if the United States is to regain its technological lead, according to a senior defense technology official.
“We are losing that advantage and we are losing it at a rapid rate. And I think if we look at what is needed to maintain that advantage, it will be a new commitment to science and technology in this country,” Mike Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, said Nov. 4 at the Aspen Security Forum.
âWe continue to have an erosion of federally funded R&D as a percentage of GDP that has gone from 2%, now in national security-focused investments, to 0.35%. That doesn’t sound like a leader. who wants to maintain a technological advantage. ”
Brown, who previously called for his July appointment as the Defense Department’s chief procurement officer to be withdrawn following an investigation into a complaint of favoritism in hiring practices, noted that the increase in STEM talents was part of the solution, but a critical look at the requirements and budgeting processes were also needed.
“We have to reimagine these roadblocks in our own way, these obstacles. You won’t be able to do it if you keep demands. Think about the narcissism of [what] demands means: we are omniscient; we know exactly what the market should be building. Well that doesn’t work in the world, âBrown said. âIt’s about modularity, open interoperability, open standardsâ¦ which require an overhaul. ”
Brown’s comments come as congressional and defense officials openly reflect on possible reforms to the budget process so that the DOD can purchase and develop technology, especially software, at a faster rate.
Brown noted that procurement reform has been the focus for decades, while the demands process has gotten a pass, relatively speaking.
âWe have to get back to that risk-taking spirit where fewer people can make a decision,â said Brown, âwe maybe don’t just assume we know everything with the requirements, let some of our defenders tell us. which is possible. And let’s use more flexible acquisition methods … we’re only going as fast as the slowest cog in this system. ”
âWe’ve been so focused on acquisition over the last 20 or 30 years. And there are solutions out there, like other transaction authorities. We did not work on the requirements or the budget. We must therefore have the same zeal to pursue them. “Brown said.
Chris Lynch, the former director of the Defense Digital Service who helped shape the $ 10 billion acquisition of joint defense infrastructure from DOD, said he wanted software to generate the same enthusiasm as computer systems. ‘weapons.
âWhen we think of the military, we think of an aircraft carrier, a tank, a jet or a satellite floating in space. Now these things are not going to go away. . But we are entering what I consider to be the defense software era. And this is going to be driven by the flawless execution of software to fulfill the defense and national security mission, “said Lynch, who is now co-founder and CEO of Rebellion Defense, who also spoke on the panel.
âIt’s cool to build big and heavy things. I understand. It’s super awesome. We should think it’s great. deployment, and the ability to have people using APIs, I can tell you right away, none of that will change. It won’t change. And you know what, that doesn’t sound that exciting, but you must be excited about it. You should be like, damn yeah. I love APIs. “
Brown said another challenge for the United States with a technological advantage is being able to develop solutions alongside allies on a large scale.
âWe need to find a way to work easier and faster with allies,â Brown said, noting that the Biden administration had announced a new task force to share cutting-edge technology, including submarines, with the ‘Australia and the UK, “continuing in terms of what [we can] working together as a project to bring this technology to our military, requires some of the things we talked about. We have to change the process because we don’t have an easy or nimble process or system to integrate our allies. I am convinced that this must change for competition with China. “
Lauren C. Williams is a senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.
Prior to joining FCW, Williams was a tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In previous positions, Williams has covered healthcare, politics, and crime for various publications, including the Seattle Times.
Williams holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [emailÂ protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.
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