WASHINGTON ― Anduril Industries has brought in Zachary Mears, a former senior Pentagon staffer, as head of strategy, the company is expected to announce Tuesday.

Mears had been running Covington & Burling’s public policy practice but previously served as a chief of staff to then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and as the National Security Council’s director for strategic planning. Under Work, who prioritized outreach to small tech firms and Silicon Valley, Mears advised the Defense Innovation Unit – Experimental, or DIUx.

Some five years later, Mears said he sees Anduril as one manifestation of those goals, the first in a class of start-ups building technology for the Defense Department. To boot, bipartisan agreement has sprung up around the strategic and operational challenges posed by China and the armed services have been opening up their requirements-generation processes to oblige more innovative industrial partners.

“While there’s still work to do, I think Anduril offers a platform and approach that is at the core of what a defense prime contractor will look like in 10 to 15 years ― the way it organizes, the way it marries software and hardware to deliver strategic and operational outcomes,” Mears said.

“It’s very much on the path of the type of company we hoped we would incentivize development of in 2014 and 2015. To join it at this moment of growth is very exciting.”

The Southern California firm has grown to 400 employees since it began with seed funding from Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund in 2017. It’s branched out from border surveillance to unmanned aerial systems and cruise missile defense technologies, among other areas.

Mears, who joined Anduril on Tuesday, will be working business development, government relations and corporate strategy, supporting Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, CEO Brian Schrimpf, Chief Strategy Officer Christian Brose and the rest of the company’s executive-level managers.

Brose, a former Senate Armed Services Committee chief of staff, told Defense News that he worked with Mears when he they were both in their government jobs and found Mears to be like-minded.

“He’s a disruptive thinker, he’s a creative thinker,” Brose said. “He’s not bound to the ways that we have always done things and the things we have used to do them, and that’s what I appreciated when I first got to know him. There’s a reason he was working for Bob Work; they were very much aligned, intellectually.”

Mears, who previously held a dual role with nonprofit Battelle and Ohio State University, joins a team that boasts veteran engineers from Space X, Tesla, Uber, Google and Apple ― and an expanding cadre of Washington insiders like himself and Brose.

“Part of my theory of change management is it’s helpful to understand the organization and culture of the very thing you’re seeking to change,” said Mears, “and then to be able to leverage the capability development and technology development of those that are experienced developing and deploying technology in markets that move more quickly than the U.S. government.”

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.

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