Defense Innovation Unit should expand across US, lawmakers say

Defense Innovation Unit should expand across US, lawmakers say

Senate lawmakers want the Defense Innovation Unit to expand its presence across the U.S. and are calling on the Pentagon’s commercial technology hub to develop a plan to partner with universities and tech companies around the country.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s fiscal 2025 defense policy bill, released July 8, includes a provision that would require DIU to craft a roadmap for how it plans to expand into more regions of the U.S.

“The committee recognizes the importance of DIU’s mission to strengthen national security by accelerating the adoption of commercial technology,” the panel said in a report accompanying the measure, “The committee believes DIU should find ways to expand its geographic footprint to achieve nationwide coverage for DIU activities, particularly to geographic areas that are not major technology and innovation hubs.”

The bill directs DIU to deepen its relationships with Defense Department laboratories, university affiliated research centers and other entities across the country that are tapped into local innovation ecosystem.

The Pentagon established DIU in 2015 to help the department take advantage of technology being developed by Silicon Valley firms. Since then, the organization has grown significantly in influence and resources and has partnered with a range of non-traditional companies — from West Coast startups to smaller defense firms located around the country.

Companies based in California have received the most contracts since DIU’s inception — 159 awards worth $635 million according to its most recent annual report released in May. However, the organization has made a concerted effort to increase its outreach throughout the U.S. As of fiscal 2023, it had awarded contracts to firms in 35 states.

DIU is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and has offices in Boston, Austin, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. This year, through its National Security Innovation Network, the organization opened five new onramp hubs in Kansas, Ohio, Arizona, Hawaii and Washington.

The hubs provide a chance for local universities and businesses to learn how to work with DOD and get access government funding. They also serve as an entry point for the into innovation networks it may not otherwise be aware of.

“American ingenuity is critical to building our nation’s enduring advantage,” DIU Director Doug Beck said of the hubs when they were announced in 2023. “These spaces will serve startups, academia, industry and other local talent and technology in order to leverage the innovation capability across the entire country, connecting them directly to DOD needs and strengthening the defense industrial base.”

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.

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