The volume, velocity and complexity of change combined with a host of adversarial threats makes scaling innovation at the Defense Department an imperative. The Defense Innovation Board’s sole focus is to provide advice and recommendations on scaling and catalyzing innovation in the department.

Established in 2016 by Ash Carter, who served as the 25th secretary of defense, the DIB is established to provide the secretary and deputy secretary, through the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, with independent, practical and actionable advice and recommendations to advance innovation within DOD. 

The board is comprised of experts from industry, academia and the national security community who provide diverse insight on the department’s biggest challenges. Currently, the DIB is chaired by businessman Mike Bloomberg and includes Gilda Barabino, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering; Sue Gordon; Reid Hoffman; Mary Meeker; retired Navy Adm. Michael Mullen; Charles Phillips; Will Roper, who holds a doctorate in mathematics; Ryan Swann; and Mac Thornberry. 

Throughout the years, the DIB has added value to the department by providing the secretary and deputy secretary of defense with recommendations on innovation in several areas, including artificial intelligence, software, data, digital transformation, culture change and workforce development.   

Today, as the board nears its eight-year anniversary, it is as active as ever. Since its appointment in 2021, the DIB has delivered four major studies with more than 20 overarching recommendations. It is currently conducting research for two additional studies. 

The first two completed studies, which were finished in just over two months and delivered to DOD on Jan. 26, focused on building the National Defense Science and Technology Strategy and tackling the “valley of death,” the varying span of time it takes for a vendor to transition a prototype or commercially available product to a DOD contract. The latest two completed studies were published in January 2024 and focused on lowering barriers to innovation and building a DOD data economy.   

The study, focusing on lowering internal barriers to innovation, examined seven key domains ranging from leadership and security to enterprise license agreements and dual-use technologies. It outlined the specific barriers, highlighted business outcomes resulting from removal of barriers, and provided actionable recommendations for implementation. A key, overarching recommendation included the need for DOD leaders to drive innovation by fostering cultural change through leading by example. 

The data economy study focused on how and why the department needs to establish reliable and scalable data access that recognizes and treats data as a product that ultimately is used to support the warfighter. The study also provided best practices adopted from industry and adapted to the context of the department in seven key areas: leadership, people, process, technology, data, incentives and implementation. 

Currently, the DIB has undertaken two new additional studies to tackle and scale innovation from two different, yet related, angles: optimizing how we innovate with our allies and partners and how to align incentives to drive faster tech adoption at the department.   

The study focusing on allies and partners will examine current challenges facing the way we can innovate together. That includes improving supply chain issues, understanding allies’ and partners’ comparative technical advantages, examining threats to sustainable and enduring interoperable partnerships, and exploring opportunities to further deepen collaboration and partnership within the security innovation ecosystem.  

The study on incentives will identify the gaps between the current DOD incentive structure and relevant industry incentive structures, distill elements and practices that could be adopted and adapted to the DOD incentive structure to close such gaps, design a communication and roll-out plan to disseminate and scale such incentives’ alignment structures, and develop metrics for tracking progress in aligning incentive structures across different stakeholders. 

For more information about these studies and the Defense Innovation Board, please visit:

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