Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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DIUx, DARPA’s Baby Brother, Shares Role of Keeping US Military the World’s Most Powerful

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(Photo : Department of Defense) Defense secretary Ash Carter talks about DIUx

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) little known but powerful baby brother, DIUx, has the big job of ensuring the links between the United States' defense establishment and private industry remains robust and rewarding.

Established in April 2015 at the initiative of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (an avowed physics wonk), DIUx stands for the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

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The main mission of DIUx is to serve as a bridge between those in the U.S. military executing on some of America's toughest security challenges and private companies operating at the cutting edge of technology.

DIUx is an "experiment," according to company executives. It continuously iterates on how best to identify, contract and prototype novel innovations through sources traditionally not available to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The secretive agency's ultimate goal is accelerating technology into the hands of the U.S. armed forces to maintain the huge technological edge that is one of the main reasons the U.S. military is the world's most powerful.

The publicity shy DIUx recently made headlines when Indian Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, visited its headquarters on Aug. 30 and met with its leadership headed by Indian-American Raj Shah, who is managing partner. Parrikar also visited DARPA and talked to the people running the show.

Together, DIUx and DARPA are the two of the pillars of Carter's "Innovation Initiative," and both represent ways for non-traditional suppliers to enter the Pentagon system. 

Carter described DIUx as the DoD's "technology startup."

"I created DIUx last year (2015) because one of my core goals as Secretary of Defense has been to build and in some cases rebuild the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America's wonderfully innovative and open technology community," he said.

He said that's important because the Pentagon and private business have a long history of partnership, working together to develop and advance technologies like the internet, GPS, satellite communication and the jet engine.

"Not only benefiting both our security and our society, but truthfully changing our entire world. And that cooperation among industry, the academy and government helped make our military what it is today, the finest fighting force the world has ever known," noted Carter.

"There's no one stronger and there's no one more capable, and that's a fact that every American ought to be proud of, and I certainly am."

Carter, however, said the U.S. military's dominance isn't a birthright.

"It's not a guarantee. We can't take it for granted in the 21st century. We have to earn it again and again. And today, it's imperative we do so because we live in a changing and competitive world."

There's the need for another smart Pentagon agency to ensure the private sector's participation in national defense, hence the need for DIUx.

"One way we're doing that is by pushing the envelope with R&D and new technologies. Like data science, biotech, cyber defense, electronic warfare, undersea drones and many, many, many others," Carter said.

"And we're making some serious investments here. The latest budget I've proposed will invest $72 billion in research and development next year alone. And for context, that's more than double what Intel, Apple and Google spent on R&D last year combined."

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