Raj Shah to take the helm at DIUX 2.0

Raj Shah, an entrepreneur and formerly senior director of strategy at Palo Alto Networks, is replacing George Duchak as the leader of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

Raj Shah

Raj Shah, an entrepreneur and Air Force reservist, will be taking over the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the Pentagon's Silicon Valley outreach program.

The Pentagon's Silicon Valley outreach program is getting new leadership and a new organizational structure.

Entrepreneur and Air Force reservist Raj Shah will be the new managing director of Defense Innovation Unit, replacing current DIUX director George Duchak.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the news in a May 11 visit to the unit's Silicon Valley headquarters.

The upgraded "DIUX 2.0" will report directly to Carter.

"I can't afford to have everyone do that," Carter said. "This is to signify the importance I attach to this mission and the importance of speedy decision making."

DIUX is going to be a test bed of innovative efforts, Carter said, from rapid acquisition to prize-based technology contests. The group is also scaling its efforts, and a new office in Boston will be launching in the future, Carter said. The Pentagon has requested $30 million for DIUX in the current budget, and Carter expects that figure to be amplified by spending by the individual military services on the innovation efforts.

Shah was previously senior director of strategy at Palo Alto Networks, and was CEO and co-founder of Morta Security. He is also an affiliate at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

At the announcement of DIUX 2.0, Shah said that he looked forward to making the case to Silicon Valley innovators that, "the military can be an important and reliable partner, and that companies have a special role to play using their ingenuity and technology to protect our country."

Shah replaces current DIUX director George Duchak, a former DARPA program manager who also served as director of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate.

Duchak, a former director of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate and a onetime  DARPA program manager, has led DIUX since the program's inception in August 2015.

Carter launched the outreach office to build relations between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley, speed up the acquisitions process, and keep the United States on the cutting edge of technology. The DIUX office is located at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, Calif., and comprises about 20 civilian and military personnel.

At a Heritage Foundation event in Washington last year, Shah said military reservists could be the key to closer collaboration between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley.

"There's a strong and growing number of reservists who want to be involved in this," Shah said in a November 2015 speech that also addressed the challenges DOD faces when trying to get tech entrepreneurs on board.

Congress has been taking a hard look at the program. The House Armed Services Committee has concerns about the "pinpoint focus on one geographic region, as well as the dedication of significant funding at such a nascent period in the development of this organization and the concept on which it was founded," according to a funding bill summary.

This story was updated on May 11.