Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a set of innovation practices that he said supports DoD’s aggressive move “toward a more innovative future.”
Speaking at a conference held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conference (Assessing the Third Offset Strategy) last week, Carter said he will implement three of the recommendations made by the Defense Innovation Board.
Carter established the board earlier this year to “advise me and my successors on how the DoD can better connect to innovation and make better use of it—including by changing ourselves.”
The department’s wide-ranging effort to innovate technologically is to “plant the seeds for a number of different technologies that we think will give us a warfighting advantage in the future, but also to be more innovative and agile in all aspects of DoD,” Carter said.
The secretary cited the fast, relentless pace of change, competition with and between other nations, and competition with terrorists and other adversaries as reasons to innovate “to stay the best.” “Being more innovative in every way we can is critical to the future success of our military and our Defense Department,” he said.
The first Innovation Board recommendation Carter will implement is to “focus on recruiting talented computer scientists and software engineers” [military and civilian] into the force. DoD will use recruiting initiatives across a broad spectrum from Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs to civilian “scholarship-for-service” programs, he said. The aim is to make computer sciences “a core competency” in DoD.
DoD will invest in “machine learning, through targeted challenges and prize competitions,” rather than investing in new “brick and mortar” institutions, Carter said. Using a “virtual center of excellence” model will establish stretch goals and incentives for academic and private-sector researchers. The initial challenges will target computer vision and machine learning.
Following another Innovation Board recommendation, Carter will create a DoD Chief Innovation Officer. This new post will serve as the Secretary’s senior advisor for innovation activities. Carter noted that many organizations have such a position, citing high tech companies IBM, Intel, and Google. He said that “it’s time we did as well, to help incentivize our people to come up with innovative ideas and approaches.”
Carter promised to continue to work on building the force of the future and said to watch for “more to come” in these efforts. “We must ensure that we keep leading the way, and keep disrupting, challenging, and inspiring all of us to change for the better,” he said.