Lawmakers propose DIU-managed military testing and evaluation cell

Lawmakers propose DIU-managed military testing and evaluation cell

House lawmakers want the Pentagon to establish a test and evaluation hub they hope will help transition innovative technology to military units at a faster rate.

In its version of fiscal 2025 defense policy legislation, released May 13, the House Armed Services Committee calls on the Defense Department to create the test and evaluation cell within the Defense Innovation Unit.

The effort would begin as a three-year pilot program starting in FY25 with the goal of making it easier for high-need technologies to move through traditional testing and validation processes.

“In carrying out the pilot program, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit shall conduct continuous and iterative test and evaluation of technologies that have the potential to provide warfighting capabilities to the Department of Defense in the near-term and mid-term timeframes,” the provision states.

The proposal aims to address two persistent DOD challenges — a lack of sufficient testing infrastructure and the often drawn-out process to get a high-need prototype into the hands of military personnel.

The cell will have a dedicated cadre of testing professionals focused on validating the effectiveness of various commercial systems, software-based technologies and other projects. It will also work to establish operational concepts for these capabilities to make sure that the systems it tests can quickly transition into units that need them.

The proposal comes as DIU is taking on a greater role in helping the Defense Department field in-demand technology in greater numbers. Last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin elevated the unit to report directly to his office, and in February DIU released a strategy for better leveraging commercially derived capabilities within the military.

In March, Congress appropriated nearly $1 billion for DIU — an $800 million increase over fiscal 2023 funding. The organization is still determining how it will spend the funding, but DIU Director Doug Beck told C4ISRNET in April 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.

Elsewhere in the policy legislation, the House Armed Services Committee proposes expanding the pool of scientific expertise at DIU from five positions to 35. The draft bill doesn’t offer much detail, but says the move would “improve the ability of the Defense Innovation Unit to attract and more rapidly hire new types of staff.”

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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