Defense Innovation Unit prepares to execute $800 million funding boost

Defense Innovation Unit prepares to execute 0 million funding boost

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The Defense Innovation Unit is working quickly to determine how and where to spend the nearly $1 billion Congress provided in March through the fiscal 2024 appropriations act.

The $983 million allocation, nearly $800 more than what DIU received last year, will support the growing organization’s mission to help the Defense Department quickly foster and field commercial capabilities in large numbers, according to DIU director Doug Beck.

Due to prolonged budget deliberations in Congress that delayed the release of appropriations, DIU’s funding came more than five months into the fiscal year, presenting Beck’s team with the challenge of using that money in a short period of time.

However, Beck said April 23 he doesn’t foresee any issues with DIU quickly putting that money to work on a condensed timeline.

“Obviously, it would be nice to have had an appropriation earlier in the year,” he said during an Association of Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International conference in San Diego. “That said, there’s so much to do that we’re really not at risk of not finding the critical things to focus that investment on.”

Beck didn’t discuss the specific initiatives DIU will funnel the funding toward — or what additional staff he might need to support these efforts — but said it will fall in four primary buckets: accelerating existing programs, launching new ones, supporting projects housed within other Defense Department innovation organizations and addressing some of the challenges commercial companies face as they try to work with DOD.

“We’re still sorting through what areas those might be, but it’s about lowering those barriers that so many of our commercial tech partners face as they’re trying to come into supporting the department,” he said.

The funding comes as DIU’s influence in the Pentagon is growing. The organization has struggled since its inception in 2015 to get buy-in and resources from Defense Department leaders. That began to shift last year when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin elevated DIU to report directly to his office and named Beck, a former Apple executive, to lead it.

Beck now sits on the Deputy’s Innovation Steering Group, which oversees DOD efforts to rapidly field technology to address high-need operational problems. He also chairs a separate Defense Innovation Working Group and DIU is playing a key role in Replicator an effort to field thousands of drones in two years and develop a process for quickly delivering capabilities to military users.

The appropriations act spreads the new DIU funding across a number of accounts and calls on the organization to use the money to rapidly field technology to get after high-need operational problems. That aligns with the technology hub’s increased focus on technology scaling, an initiative called DIU 3.0.

“The entire DIU 3.0 strategy is about focusing on those things that achieve true strategic impact and contribute that true strategic impact defined by deterring major conflict or helping win if forced to fight,” he said.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

Read the full article here