The report, authored for the Center for a New American Security by Ben FitzGerald and Loren DeJonge Schulman, says that Carter has done a good job of reaching out to communities outside of DC, in particular the tech hub of Silicon Valley. But the problem is bringing in new ideas back into a building where the internal processes and cultural attitudes create roadblocks.
"Since that initial announcement at Stanford University, innovation has hit peak buzzword within the Pentagon," the authors write in the report, formatted to look like a memo for Carter's desk and coming in at a slim 15 pages.
"Your innovation initiatives have caught attention within and outside the Pentagon, but there is a perception of an inverse relationship between the amount of discussion about innovation and actual innovation being accomplished," they later add.
In particular, he recommends that Carter work to change the incentives for acquisition and technology officials inside the Pentagon to make them more open to new ideas. That also means finding a real example of the "fail fast" concept, popular in the tech community, which Carter has suggested needs to be accepted inside the Pentagon.
"The secretary should actually identify something that is not going as well as it should, cancel it, hold it up and then reward the people involved for trying," FitzGerald said.
"He often, especially when he started, used 'Silicon Valley' as shorthand for things outside of the Pentagon," FitzGerald said. "That has led to things like general officers flying out to [California] to take meetings that don't really lead anywhere, which wastes people's time and actually burns bridges before they've been built and leads to frustration. It's also led to the perception from the defense industry, for example, that the secretary doesn't feel they innovate or are still relevant."
"It's not his intention but it's one of the challenges when you try to drive change in the Pentagon. You say this is what you're after and people who aren't that thing feel disenfranchised," FitzGerald added, noting that Carter has recently had publicized meetings with traditional defense organizations to send the signal they remain critically important.
Read the full report:
The full report can be read here.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.