WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s technology shop posted a job opening this week for a new Defense Innovation Unit director, an unusual move for such a high-level position.
DIU leads the U.S. Department of Defense’s efforts to transition commercial technology for national security applications and works closely with companies new to doing business with DoD. The agency’s current director, Mike Brown, announced in April he would leave the post at the end of his four-year term in September, despite being offered an opportunity to stay another year.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman told Defense News that while most positions “quietly go up on the USAJOBS website,” which is the government’s wide-ranging online job board, the department wants to amplify this post “because we are hoping for non-traditional federal employees to apply.”
DIU was established in 2015 as an experimental organization by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The office was initially led by George Duchak and then in 2016, Raj Shah moved into the role. Brown took the helm in 2018 and has been the organization’s longest-serving director. Prior to DIU, he served as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow at DoD as well as CEO of Symantec Corporation, a cybersecurity and software company.
Brown has been vocal about his frustration with DIU’s small share of the DoD budget, the department’s antiquated funding processes and the lack of momentum around adopting commercial technology. His departure has drawn criticism from some lawmakers concerned about a perceived lack of support for DIU at a time when Pentagon leaders have called for more partnerships with commercial providers.
During a May House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee hearing, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, said the department isn’t working hard enough to integrate commercial capabilities.
“It’s been Congress, not the department, that has repeatedly pushed investment in DIU and in innovation,” Moulton said.
The department’s press release made a nod to those concerns, noting the new director will focus on “improving practices, processes, and effectiveness in the delivery and transition of state-of-the-art commercial technology solutions to the DoD.”
The listing notes the importance of having a DIU director with “expertise in technology commercialization and the broader innovation ecosystem.”