The Pentagon's Startup Outreach Office is No Longer an Experiment


Officials renamed the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to show the permanence of the program.

Diving into long-term relationships can be scary, but the Defense Department said it’s ready to go to commit to its startup outreach program.

Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the office charged with bringing Silicon Valley tech to the Pentagon, will now be known as Defense Innovation Unit, the department announced Thursday.

The name change reflects military leaders’ “commitment to the importance of its mission” and signifies the permanence of the group within the country’s defense apparatus, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

“DIUx has generated meaningful outcomes for the department and is a proven, valuable asset,” Shanahan wrote in a memo to agency leaders. “Though DIU will continue to experiment with new ways of delivering capability to the warfighter, the organization itself is no longer an experiment.”

The department also expects to announce a new permanent managing director within a matter of weeks, a DIU spokesperson told Nextgov. Navy Capt. Sean Heritage stepped in as acting managing director in February when the last permanent managing director, Raj Shah, left the group.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter founded the program in 2015 as a way to build partnerships between the Pentagon and innovators within the tech community. As the group set out to help non-traditional companies do business with the department, Carter stressed the “experimental”  nature of DIUx would allow the group to constantly reconfigure its operations.

The small organization floundered under its weighty mission the first year, but Carter relaunched the group with Shah as the new leader, heftier funding and a scope that expanded beyond Silicon Valley. Today the group operates out four offices—in Mountain View, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Boston—and works with partners around the country on innovative drones, artificial intelligence and other technologies.

Heritage will continue serving as acting managing partner of the group as it enters its permanent phase, Defense Department Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told Nextgov.