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DOD to Start Its Own Digital Service Team

Defense Secretary Ash Carter

Defense Secretary Ash Carter // Andrew Harnik/AP

The Defense Department plans to establish its own digital service team, modeled on the less-than-a-year-old White House tech group responsible for troubleshooting HealthCare.gov and other federal IT projects.

The announcement of the Pentagon tech team came during a recent trip to California's Silicon Valley area, during which Defense Secretary Ash Carter revealed several other efforts to update the department's digital strategy.

Earlier this week, DOD officials announced plans to open a unit in Silicon Valley, in an attempt to build new partnerships with the private sector. The department also unveiled its new "Cyber Strategy" on Thursday, which generally outlines plans to collaborate with the private sector.  

The Obama administration's 2016 budget request includes $105 million for creating teams similar to the U.S. Digital Service -- many of whose members were recruited from the private sector -- within 25 federal agencies and departments, excepting DOD. 

Even though it is exempt from this requirement, "it’s important that we at the Pentagon find new ways to help bring in new people with the talent and expertise we need, and who want to contribute to our mission as part of our force of the future, even if just for a time," Carter said in a speech at Stanford University titled, "Rewiring the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity."

Carter said the new digital service team would help to solve DOD's IT and data problems. The new team is already working to transfer electronic health records to the Department of Veterans Affairs from DOD. 

As a whole, the department is also looking to partner with commercial businesses on various emerging technologies, including 3-D printing, the Internet of Things and robotics, Carter said. 

As DOD builds its cyber force, "we’re looking at new ways to attract talent through new private-sector exchange programs . . . so that together, we can create cyber capabilities that not only help DOD, but can also spin off into the wider U.S. marketplace," Carter said.

Currently, Carter said, "DOD doesn’t have many effective ways to harness promising technologies they come up with. We need to fix that. I don’t want us to lose out on an innovative idea or capability we need because the Pentagon bureaucracy was too slow to fund something, or we weren’t amenable to working with as many startups as we could be."

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