WASHINGTON --- Top innovators, scholars and business leaders gathered at the Pentagon today for the second meeting of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board and approved 11 recommendations aimed at keeping the Defense Department on the cutting edge in technology, culture, operations and processes.
The 15-member board is chaired by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.
"I think I can speak for the entire board to say that we are really happy to be able to serve the country in the way that we have," Schmidt said at the start of today's public meeting. "Everybody here is a volunteer. We've had a wonderful time."
Board members are continually impressed by the focus, courage and discipline of the service members they meet around the globe, Schmidt said. "It's important when you sit here in Washington to remember there's a much larger space of people who are out basically fighting the good fight in an impressive way," he added.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Schmidt said he believes the board will continue its work under the incoming administration and that it will be "business as usual" with the new secretary of defense.
"We are a discretionary board -- the way it's structured is we continue at the discretion of the secretary," he explained. "We have every reason to believe that it will continue."
Approval of Recommendations
The board held its inaugural meeting in October. In today's 90-minute session, the board discussed and approved 11 recommendations and discussed a new one.
The attendees included Marne Levine, chief operating officer of Instagram; retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command who now is chancellor of the University of Texas System; and astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Other members at today's meeting were Adam Grant, professor, Wharton School of Business; Eric Lander, president and founding director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology, United Technologies; Milo Medin, vice president, Access Services, Google Capital; Jennifer Pahlka, founder, Code for America; and Cass Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter established the board last year for a two-year renewable term. The panel is authorized to have up to 20 members.
The board also includes Jeff Bezos, president, chairman and CEO, Amazon Inc.; Danny Hillis, computer theorist and co-founder, Applied Inventions; Reid Hoffman, co-founder, LinkedIn, and partner, Greylock Partners; Walter Isaacson, president and CEO, Aspen Institute; and Richard Murray, professor, California Institute of Technology.
Recommendations for the Department
Members today approved recommendations to:
-- Appoint a chief innovation officer and build innovation capacity in the workforce;
-- Embed computer science as a core competency of the department through recruiting and training;
-- Embrace a culture of experimentation;
-- Assess cybersecurity vulnerabilities of advanced weapons;
-- Catalyze innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
-- Expand use of available acquisition waivers and exemptions;
-- Increase investment in new approaches to innovation;
-- Improve DoD access to code;
-- Establish software development teams at each major command;
-- Make computing and bandwidth abundant;
-- Reward bureaucracy busting; and
-- Lower barriers to innovation.
The members also discussed a new recommendation to establish a global and secure repository for data collection, sharing and analysis, but did not vote on that idea.
The board's executive director, Joshua Marcuse, pointed out that Carter announced in October he had formally accepted board recommendations to create a DoD chief innovation officer, embed computer science as a core competency, and create a DoD center for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Today's vote finalizes the recommendations and will include any updated language, Marcuse said. The secretary's staff has begun a process of how to best to implement those three ideas, he added.
The Defense Innovation Advisory Board operates under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Government in Sunshine Act.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The 11 recommendations listed above are so generic as to be virtually meaningless. “Lower barriers to innovation,” “Embrace a culture of experimentation,” and “reward bureaucracy busting” are little more than slogans stating the obvious, and it is somewhat disappointing that 11 prominent scientists could not come up with anything better.
Worse, the recommendation to “Assess cybersecurity vulnerabilities of advanced weapons” risks a major disruption in development and production contracts, as many of the largest programs – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to name but one – avoided cybersecurity tests because of fears they would fail.
Carrying out these tests risk showing up their vulnerabilities, and thus require massive redesign and/or upgrades at great cost.
Finally, expanding “use of available acquisition waivers and exemptions” would be catastrophic, because much of what is wrong within Pentagon acquisition is the excessive use of these very same exemptions and waivers, as shown by the waiver granted so the F-35 escaped cyber testing.)