Bringing DoD Innovation Missions Together
In February 2019, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) directed DIU to assume operational management of two entities:
- National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), formerly known as MD5-National Security Technology Accelerator; and
- National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC), a new entity authorized by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019.
Together, DIU, NSIN, and NSIC prioritize DoD access to emerging technologies at every stage of maturity and create new opportunities for entities within the national security innovation base (NSIB) to solve national security challenges. NSIN and NSIC will jointly commercialize technologies with NSIC focused on company formation and scale-up of dual-use hardware manufacturing. Consolidating these activities under DIU--and more broadly under OUSD(R&E)--will streamline operations, improve coordination, and strengthen the NSIB
Over the next year, DIU will help launch NSIC operations and establish a single support structure - to include human resources, contracting, finance, operations, and legal - with NSIN and NSIC to reduce overhead.
DIU, NSIN, & NSIC Missions Explained
Defense Innovation Unit
DIU was established in August 2015 to reinvigorate and lead DoD outreach to commercial innovation hubs across the country, beginning with Silicon Valley and extending to Washington, D.C., Boston, and Austin. Over the past three and a half years, DIU's mission has grown to focus on three core goals:
- Accelerating the adoption of commercial technology spanning artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space to strengthen national security;
- Executing transformative projects with scalable impact across the joint force; and
- Growing and strengthening the NSIB.
DIU leverages its four locations to partner with the services, combatant commands, and component organizations to identify and access leading-edge commercial solutions, lower barriers to entry into the defense market for nontraditional companies, and field the highest impact capabilities the private sector has to offer at the speed of relevance.National Security Innovation Network
NSIN builds and convenes networks of innovators to generate new solutions to national security challenges and offers collaboration and acceleration programs that connect innovators across academia, DoD laboratories, and early stage companies with DoD end users. Launched in October 2016 as the MD5-National Security Technology Accelerator, NSIN creates a talent and technology pipeline organized around three core activities:
- Curating DoD challenges for early stage companies, students, and faculty from academia to prototype novel concepts and solutions to current warfighter challenges;
- Engaging with incubators, accelerators, and DoD laboratories to commercialize dual-use technologies; and
- Generating new pathways for DoD and other national security agencies to attract and recruit technologists, companies, and entrepreneurs.
National Security Innovation Capital
NSIC is a new initiative authorized by the John S. McCain NDAA for Fiscal Year 2019 that will make investments in dual-use hardware and strengthen U.S. supply chains where they are most vulnerable. Hardware technology is foundational to new military capabilities and will benefit from the development, testing, and volume-cost curves inherent in commercial development. A proposed governance committee comprised of senior officials from across the Office of the Secretary of Defense, DoD laboratories, and service acquisition teams will help inform NSIC investments and ensure alignment with national security priorities. The NSIC investment team will target companies with strong potential in:
- Dual-use technologies that are at an inflection point in R&D and prototype development that would benefit from the volume-cost curve provided by the robust commercial market;
- Legitimate dual-use hardware technology systems companies seeking investment, but blocked by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) from taking investments from investors representing adversarial national interests;
- Technology companies that receive federal R&D funding (DoD laboratories, national laboratories, universities, DARPA, etc.) for national security applications, but are unable to attract U.S. venture capital for commercialization due to structural realities in the U.S. financial markets;
- Technology areas where the DoD has identified supply shortfalls and supply chain vulnerabilities; and
- Technology companies identified by private U.S. venture capitalists as possessing credible technology, but not likely to receive funding unless there is a clear signal from the Department on the potential for a defense market.
DoD investments in these areas will send a credible signal to private investors that will de-risk and stimulate more investment activity in dual-use hardware firms that are currently underserved.