Commentary: Pentagon, Defense Industry Should Turn to Silicon Valley

Posted January 14, 2015 at 5:15am

Tim Wickham and August Cole write in National Defense Magazine  that “with renewed support from top officials worried about the future of the American military, the Pentagon is looking beyond the defense establishment as it searches for technologies that will give it a decisive operational edge. Incoming Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has a chance to own this initiative given his stint as the department’s top weapons buyer, and the fact that he was working in Silicon Valley before being nominated for the Pentagon’s top job in early December. Whether he is successful depends on something that so far is missing from the Pentagon’s pitch to those working on America’s technological future: the value proposition.”  

“The Defense Department already spends heavily on a range of commercial technologies similar to those employed by Fortune 500 companies in areas such as logistics, human resources systems and IT. Yet this new approach is a wholly different one: identifying existing and emerging innovations that can be integrated into today’s military operations, while also spurring investment in leap-ahead technologies that will fundamentally change the way the U.S. military operates. That is why the department recently issued a bureaucratic call for innovative private sector ideas, or a “Long Range Research and Development Plan” request for information in early December. It is the clearest appeal for help yet.”  

“While there is no easy answer to how the Department can improve its value proposition to the technology sector, government and industry officials need to keep in mind how technology investors such as venture capital firms invest in startups.”