Forcing culture change at DOD

Shutterstock image: a single luminous box among similar grey, ordered boxes. 

While there is broad agreement the Department of Defense needs a culture change to embrace rapid innovation, there is less agreement on how to make that happen. One former DOD official says it is time to use force.

Jeffrey Bialos, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and current fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, has authored a new report, "Against the Odds: Driving Defense Innovation in a Change-Resistant Ecosystem," which states that the new Pentagon leadership needs to use “forcing functions” to mandate change at the DOD.

The report argues those new mechanisms should be designed to: "create varied, non-traditional onramps for commercial technology; adopt more agile and time-sensitive commercial processes to the fullest extent possible; and more broadly and rapidly incorporate innovative concepts into fielded solutions."

"The challenge here is how do you make it a less unnatural act for the next SpaceX to do business with the department and the department to accept and embrace the next SpaceX?" Bialos posited at a presentation of his report at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said the DOD cannot predict which technologies will ultimately pay off, and therefore needs to invest in a balanced portfolio based around irregular warfare, high-intensity conventional warfare and nuclear deterrence.

The Third Offset approach should be set aside, Bialos said, because it focuses too heavily on automation and artificial technology. Given advances in commercial technology available to adversaries, that is not the area where the U.S. will be able to maintain dominance.

Instead, DOD needs to establish a center of excellence around acquisition that focuses on more nimble procurement vehicles.

The DOD, the report argues, needs to take DIUx and move it from being a "pilot on the side" to a center of excellence and an onramp for commercial technology into the DOD, "and expand its funding to $250 million in order to better leverage its resources and incentivize collaboration with other DOD R&D units and customers."

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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