The U.S. Department of Defense last week opened a new pilot office at Moffett Federal Airfield as part of a renewed effort by the military to partner up with Silicon Valley's tech talent.
The new office is being launched by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a new division created by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in April, just weeks after he assumed office.
In a press release last week, department officials described the new initiative as a "win-win" opportunity for local innovators to gain new development funding while helping the United States maintain military superiority and cybersecurity.
The U.S. military bureaucracy has a long history of providing the crucial funding and support for technologies that later changed the world on the consumer market. Perhaps the most notable example, the basis for the modern-day internet was born in the 1960s from Defense Department research grants for packet network systems.
The much-hyped current effort to develop self-driving cars originated from the 2004 "Grand Challenge" contest organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Military officials also claim Siri the Apple iOS voice-recognition software grew out of decades of work to build a virtual field assistant for soldiers.
Speaking in April at Stanford University, Carter announced that by launching the new DIUx office, he wanted to further strengthen the relationship between the tech sector and military officials.
The U.S. military remains a huge supporter for breakthrough research, providing about $72 billion dollars in federal funding last year. But Carter said that 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan led the military to focus on immediate needs and lose sight on the global impact and proliferation of technology, he said.
"We in the Pentagon to stay ahead need to change ... we have to think outside of our five-sided box," he said. "To stay competitive and to stay ahead of threats, the Department of Defense must do even more. And that starts with our people, who are our most important asset, both in Silicon Valley and in the military."
The new Moffett Field office is being led by DIUx Director George Duchak and Rear Adm. Brian Hendrickson. In a press release, Defense Deputy Secretary Bob Work said the new office would be especially interested in tapping into local research on robotics, big data and analytics.
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