The Defense Department is creating a chief innovation officer position, Secretary Ash Carter announced Friday.
Carter’s decision follows several recommendations made to him by his recently launched Defense Innovation Board, led by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. The board, earlier this month during its first release of recommendation, told Carter that while there is innovation in the department, it’s trapped in silos.
The secretary is also following two other recommendations made by the board to focus on recruiting talented computer scientists and software engineers, and invest in machine learning, he said Friday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
The department’s new chief innovation officer will be a senior adviser to the secretary and will “serve as a spearhead for innovation activities,” such as those recommended by the board and potentially others, Carter said.
The new position will lead activities like “building software platforms and human networks to enable workforce-driven innovation across DOD at scale; sponsoring innovation contests and tournaments; and providing training and education that promotes new ideas and approaches to collaboration, creativity and critical-thinking,” he said.
Carter has also asked the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to sponsor a prize challenge “focused on computer vision and machine learning.”
“We’re going to invest more broadly in machine learning through targeted challenges and prize competitions,” Carter said. “And not through a new brick and mortar institution but rather through a virtual center of excellence model that establishes stretch goals and incentivizes academic and private sector researchers to achieve them.”
Companies like IBM, Intel and Google regularly run innovation competitions and tournaments, he noted, adding that the DOD should too.
The department will also expand its computer science workforce through “targeted recruiting activities, from our reserve officer training corps to our civilian scholarship-for-service program that’s intended to help build the next generation of DoD science and technology leaders,” the DOD secretary said.
Mentioning his Force of the Future initiative, Carter said more on workforce development would be announced next week.