|Parent department||Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering|
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is a United States Department of Defense (DoD) organization founded to help the U.S. military make faster use of emerging commercial technologies. Launched in 2015, the organization has been called "the Pentagon's Innovation Experiment". DIU is staffed by civilian and both active duty and reserve military personnel. The organization is headquartered in Mountain View, California — Silicon Valley — with offices in Boston, Austin, and the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C.
The DIU's stated mission is to accelerate DoD adoption of commercial technology, transform military capacity and capability, and strengthen the American national security innovation base.
It seeks to strengthen US national security by accelerating the adoption of commercial technology throughout the military and growing the national security innovation base. DIU partners with organizations across the Department of Defense, from the services and components to combatant commands and defense agencies, to rapidly prototype and field advanced commercial products that address national security challenges.
DIU operates five portfolios dedicated to solving national security demand in areas of AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), Autonomy, Cyber, Human Systems, and Space. In 2016, DIU, then known as DIUx, pioneered a process for awarding prototype contracts through the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA) leveraging USC Title 10 §2371b for competitive selection of advanced commercial technologies. After a period of rapid prototyping, thes resulting materiel was transitioned to the warfighter.
DIU was launched in August 2015 as "Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx)." It was founded by Maynard Holliday. In May 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a reboot of the organization, designating that it report directly to his office.
From May 2016 to February 2018, its managing partner was Raj Shah, a Wharton MBA graduate who flew F-16s in Iraq as an Air National Guard reservist and co-founded Morta Security, later acquired by Palo Alto Networks. Other leaders include Isaac Taylor, Chris Kirchhoff, and Vishaal Hariprasad. Taylor spent 13 years at Google, designing and building its first self-driving cars, then later rising to operations director of Google X where he started projects involving robotics and augmented reality. Kirchhoff served as a strategist in President Obama's National Security Council and as the civilian assistant to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hariprasad is a highly decorated Air Force cyberwarfare officer who cofounded Morta Security with Raj Shah.
In August 2017, during a period in which Captain Sean Heritage, USN, was interim Director, Deputy Secretary of Defense directed DIUx be re-designated as the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to indicate the organization's permanence within the Department of Defense.