Department Of Defense To Private Sector: We Need Your Help With Mobile Innovation

On stage at the second-day keynote, Major General Robert Wheeler talked about the changing role of industry and enterprise as it relates to technological innovation, and how where once the military led in that department, now the vast majority of improvements are being driven by advances made in the private sector. The upshot of that is that the Department of Defense and other federal agencies are looking for help keeping pace with rapidly evolving world of mobile tech from corporations and enterprise sources, and offering up access and more open communication in exchange.

Wheeler, who acts as Deputy CIO for C4 and Information Infrastructure Capabilities for the Department of Defense, outlined that the problems his organization focus with regards to mobile tech involve its speed of change, and the lag between those shifts and the acquisition cycle of new initiatives for military organizations. Cybersecurity threats move at an accelerated pace, and so the acquisition cycle’s relative slowness leads to major vulnerability issues. The DoD needs to become agile and mimic enterprise in this regard in order to become responsive to threats.

Overall, the DoD’s mobile strategy involves sourcing cheaper solutions than are generally available on the mass market, yet with equal or better security and productivity that’s ahead of the curve, Wheeler described. Obviously, that’s a huge challenge, especially when you’re also trying not to become obsolete in a matter of months owing to the aggressive upgrade cycles many consumer electronics manufacturers now employ.

The issue is that there’s been a major paradigm shift in the source of innovation, and that puts the DoD in the unusual position of having to go to the open market to seek help, rather than having its own innovations trickle down and out to regular folks over a period spanning decades the way it has in the past.

“A lot of innovation comes out of dod in certain areas and with certain technology,” Wheeler explained to conference attendees. “But a lot, and a lot more today comes out of [industry sources].” In order to take advantage of that outside innovation, Wheeler says the DoD is more willing than ever to talk to private companies, and while secrecy remains an important priority in some respects, by and large defense agencies are much more willing to talk to the private sector in order to solve its mobile tech challenges than ever before.