WASHINGTON ― Raj Shah has stepped down as the head of the Pentagon’s DIUx Silicon Valley office after almost two years on the job.
Shah quietly left the job Feb. 22, handing control of the group over to U.S. Navy Capt. Sean Heritage, who will serve as the acting lead until a new managing partner is named, said Defense Department spokeswoman Michelle Baldanza.
Shah will remain attached to DIUx in some capacity through his spot in the Air National Guard, Baldanza added.
DIUx, formally the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, was created by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015 under different leadership as an outpost in Silicon Valley that could help bring cutting-edge technology to the Pentagon.
However, the group floundered, and months later Carter relaunched it as DIUX 2.0, with Shah in charge.
Since he took over in May 2016, Shah ― an F-16 pilot in the Guard who has worked with a number of tech companies in the past ― helped oversee DIUx expansion to Boston, Massachusetts, as well as Austin, Texas. He also strengthened ties between the tech hub and the military services, and in October the group transitioned its first program into a true Pentagon contract.
Over the summer, the office also received a vote of confidence from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, both in the form of new authorities and then verbally during an August visit to the group’s headquarters, where he said: “I enthusiastically embrace [DIUx], and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.”
But there is a certain amount of turbulence ahead for the organization.
As part of his DIUx 2.0 plan, Carter had the office directly report to him. But under the Pentagon’s reorganization of its acquisition office, Shah would now report to Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering ― a step down in reporting and one that could limit the freedom that the organization has enjoyed under Shah.
Griffin, confirmed to the R&E spot just a few weeks ago, will now have a chance to weigh in on who should be his point person for commercial tech outreach.
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.