WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's commercial outreach office needs an emergency infusion of cash to keep key programs moving forward — and the department is ready to give it to them.
Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed Tuesday that the Pentagon is preparing a fiscal reprogramming request to keep the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, running at full speed.
"We put tremendous demands on the defense experimental unit in the programs they have working for us," Selva said, adding that in the past week, DIUx head Raj Shah requested additional funding. "We have a reprogramming proposal that is in staff as we speak that will address the balance of their requirements for this fiscal year."
A DoD spokesman declined to comment on Selva’s comment.
DIUx is the brainchild of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who announced its creation in May 2015. Tasked with bridging the gap between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley, the California office opened in August 2015. By May 2016, Carter felt the need to relaunch the office, replacing its leadership with Shah and having the office report directly to the secretary.
Since taking over, Shah has received positive reviews from industry partners and opened new outposts in Austin, Texas, and Boston. As of March, the office had awarded 25 agreements for a total of $48.4 million. Of those 25 agreements, 22 came from nontraditional defense firms.
The DIUx program in need of support appears to be an initiative to work with small, innovative commercial space companies to build inexpensive radar imaging satellites. In his written testimony, Selva showed support for the program but noted such an initiative would supplement, rather than replace, the exquisite systems DoD relies on now.
"Commercial radar imaging by no means replaces the need for exquisite government satellites capable of focusing on specific targets of interest; rather, it provides capacity and broader focus for countrywide patterns of life that, in turn, can provide indication and warning to tip exquisite assets or posture forces," Selva wrote.
He added that the first of three satellites is scheduled to launch in late 2017, while machine algorithms to support those will be demonstrated in early 2018.
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.