Former DIU leader gets seat on commission examining military budget

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, speaks with Raj Shah at DIUx headquarters in Mountain View, California, in August 2017. (DOD photo / Flickr)

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A congressionally mandated commission investigating how the military plans and executes its budget will include the former head of the Defense Innovation Unit, Raj Shah.

Shah and other appointees have been critical of the military’s two-year budgeting cycle, which can delay innovative startups from entering the defense market. Shah’s background, as a startup founder and Air National Guard F-16 pilot, bridges both Silicon Valley and national security.

“Now is the time to supercharge DOD access to innovation,” Shah told law makers in 2020. Nearly two years later to the day, he will have the opportunity to express his opinion again to lawmakers on how to reform the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process.

The Commission on PPBE Reform’s charter tasks it with submitting a report to Congress by September 2023 “assessing the effectiveness” of the current process, which requires the department to plan out budgets at least two years in advance — a timeline that often results in money arriving too late to buy the latest tech. The commission also will develop policy recommendations on how to “rapidly field operational capabilities and outpace America’s near-peer competitors.”

Shah joins other former DOD officials on the commission including Ellen Lord, former undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment; Eric Fanning, former secretary of the Army; and Robert Hale, former DOD comptroller.

Shah was chosen by Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.  The commission will eventually have 14 members and include selections from the secretary of Defense and other congressional leaders that have yet to be announced.

Shah was tapped by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016 to be the second leader of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and the first to report directly to the secretary. The unit has since dropped the “experimental” moniker and has gone on to issue billions of dollars in prototype contracts to tech-focused start ups.

Resilience Insurance, a cybersecurity company Shah chairs, was also selected as a part of the White House’s ransomware task force.

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Acquisition reform, Congress, Department of Defense (DOD), DIU (formerly DIUx), Raj Shah
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