Pentagon turns to Silicon Valley for tech expertise

Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt to lead new DoD innovation board

By Michelle Goodman

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the formation of a Defense Innovation Advisory Board on Wednesday, helmed by Alphabet chairman and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

The purpose of the board is to advise the Department of Defense on the latest and greatest technology practices. The DoD hopes to mine the best practices of Silicon Valley's brightest minds to quickly solve its own organizational, cultural and process-related problems.

The areas of expertise the DoD anticipates the board helping with include rapid prototyping, iterative product development, the use of mobile and cloud applications, complex data analysis for more informed decision making and information sharing across organizations. The board won't be privy to military operations or strategy discussions, the DoD said.

The board will include up to 12 other technology leaders from the private and public sectors, the DoD said. Secretary Carter and Schmidt will handpick the remaining board members from a variety of U.S. industries and organizations, both inside and outside Silicon Valley.

Today the DoD also announced a new pilot program designed to test the department's cybersecurity. Called "Hack the Pentagon," the program will crowdsource credentialed hackers to find vulnerabilities in the DoD's public webpages. The program, which launches in April, is modeled after similar "bug bounty" competitions held by private sector companies looking to expose potential security problems in their networks, products and services.

This isn't the first time the Obama administration has enlisted the help of the private sector to tackle tough technology issues. For some time now, the U.S. Digital Service has been tapping leading product designers and engineers from Silicon Valley and beyond to improve the user experience Americans have with critical federal services like student loans, healthcare and veterans' benefits.

For more:
- see the DoD innovation board press release 
- see the DoD cybersecurity press release

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