DIU’s Mike Brown is Biden’s pick to head DOD acquisition

Brett Goldstein, Neil Degrasse Tyson and Mike Brown receive a brief from an Airman at an MQ-9 Reaper display at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 12, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

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Mike Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, is set to be the Biden administration’s pick to head the Department of Defense’s acquisition and sustainment enterprise.

The White House on Friday indicated President Joe Biden’s intent to nominate Brown as undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Brown comes from a long career leading technology companies in Silicon Valley before he was tapped to bridge the gap between the DOD and his old tech community at DIU in 2018.

His expected nomination was one of three the White House announced for the Pentagon Friday, including picks of Michael McCord to be DOD’s comptroller and Ronald Moultrie to be undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gave a strong recommendation for the three.

“Each of these individuals is talented, experienced and highly qualified for the critical national security roles they will, if confirmed, undertake on behalf of the Department,” Austin said. “Their deep experience in national security will prove essential in guiding our efforts to defend this nation and secure our interests around the world.”

It’s unclear who will replace Brown at DIU. Once officially nominated, he will need to receive Senate confirmation.

Brown’s job at DIU focused on rapid prototyping and acquisition, handling a couple billion dollars a year. But his new job would focus on acquisition programs at a much larger scale worth hundreds of billions of dollars and that are often the opposite of rapid. Brown’s nomination represents a potential sea change for the department by putting a former technology official at the helm of acquisition. Brown’s predecessor Ellen Lord was a former defense industry executive when she took on the role in 2017.

The former CEO of cybersecurity company Symantec, Brown would also oversee critical cybersecurity programs to secure the defense industrial base, like the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). The program is currently under an internal review.

Brown has also been influential in his thoughts on U.S. technology competition with China. He has frequently spoken on the think tank circuit about Chinese tech development and co-authored an influential paper about economic competition and civil-military fusion in tech.

“National security follows economic security and prosperity,” Brown once said.

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Acquisition, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Department of Defense (DOD), Mike Brown, Software Acquisition and Practices Study
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