Apple VP Named New Director of Defense Innovation Unit

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also announced that the Defense Innovation Unit director will report directly to him as part of a leadership “realignment.”

The Department of Defense announced on Tuesday that Apple executive Doug Beck will serve as the next director of the Defense Innovation Unit, or DIU, the Pentagon’s hub for accelerating the development of commercial technologies for military use. 

DOD said in a press release that Beck “will oversee efforts to accelerate the department's adoption of commercial technology throughout the military and also serve as a senior advisor to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense on technology innovation, competition and strategic impact.”

Beck—who is currently Apple’s vice president of worldwide education, health and government—brings a combination of military experience, private sector leadership and government service to the DIU. He began working for Apple in 2009, where he co-led the company’s global business development and sales functions, as well as helmed Apple’s business operations across Northeast Asia and the Americas.

Beck is also a U.S. Navy Reserve captain, with almost 26 years of military service that includes serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 through 2007 as part of a joint special operations task force. According to DOD, he also served “as an appointed member of the Secretary of State's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, an executive advisor to three Chiefs of Naval Operations and to Special Operations Community leadership and an adjunct lecturer on strategy and innovation for flag and general officers at the Naval Postgraduate School.” 

DOD also noted that Beck has previous experience working with DIU, having “founded and led its joint reserve component from inception in 2015 through 2019.”

Beck will replace Mike Madsen, who has served as DIU’s acting director since last September. 

The Pentagon launched DIU in August 2015 to help DOD adopt commercial technologies for national security purposes. The unit—which is headquartered in Silicon Valley and has offices in Austin, Boston, Chicago and at the Pentagon—partners with DOD agencies and the private sector to prototype and develop innovative technologies. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also announced in an April 4 memo that, “effective immediately,” the DIU will be “under the authority, direction and control of the Secretary of Defense.” Prior to the change, the unit reported to the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. 

Framing the leadership shuffle in the context of last year’s National Defense Strategy and the continuing threats posed by China and Russia, Austin added that harnessing the private sector’s “innovative power in a manner consistent with our values is crucial for the Department of Defense to meet its goals.”

“DIU’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology at speed and scale, and these changes will further enable it to effectively execute this critical mission,” he added.

Austin also said that Beck will be required to provide him with an assessment of DIU’s ability to meet its objectives within 90 days of his appointment, as well as “a proposed plan of action and milestones for achieving key goals.” 

DIU has not had a permanent director since September 2022, when then-DIU Director Mike Brown resigned from the position. At the time, Brown cited a lack of support and “benign neglect” for the unit on the part of DOD leadership as some of his reasons for stepping down from the role. 

That critique, in part, prompted DOD’s chief technology officer to tell congressional lawmakers last year that the Pentagon would work to direct additional funding and support to the unit moving forward.