The Pentagon’s acquisition candidate is concerned about the technology race with China

The White House revealed on April 2 that Michael Brown, a former software business entrepreneur who has headed the Pentagon’s commercial outreach office since 2018, is President Biden’s choice for the Defense Department’s highest procurement position. Brown was appointed to be the Defense Department’s acquisition and sustainment undersecretary. He is the head of the Defense Innovation Unit in Silicon Valley at the moment. The office was established by the Obama administration in 2015 to foster relationships with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as to assist in the transfer of technology from the private sector to military programs.

Brown’s key worry since his tenure at DIU has been the technical rivalry with China. He co-authored a report in 2018 on how the Chinese venture capital investments allow the nation to gain entry to the “crown jewels of American innovation.” According to the report, Chinese venture capital transactions for early-stage technology startups have risen significantly in recent years. “The innovations in which China is investing are the same ones in which American companies are investing, and which would be fundamental to prospective innovation: artificial intelligence, automated cars, augmented reality, robots, and blockchain technology.”

DIU is an early sponsor of new space launch firms such as Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, as well as Relativity Space under Brown’s leadership. DIU chose these firms to fly conceptual DoD payloads as a portion of an attempt to work out how the Department of Defense would use private launch services.

DIU has invested in LeoLabs, a space monitoring startup that uses a collection of phased-array radars to detect satellite operations in low Earth orbit. Brown will be in charge of a $240 billion operating expenditure for military equipment and facilities as Undersecretary for Acquisition as well as Sustainment. Brown was the Chief executive of two public Silicon Valley technology companies, Symantec as well as Quantum, before entering the US government. Brown made the argument in a new interview with Francis Rose, who serves as the host of Government Matters that using business solutions saves taxpayer money.

“Taking advantage of commercial technologies would become more necessary as budgets at Defense Department tighten over the next few years,” Brown added. “I assume it would be important to preserve Defense Department dollars on technology that the Defense Force would continue to build on its own, such as hypersonics or guided energy.”

Brown also pushed for the Pentagon to implement commercial technology more efficiently. One of DIU’s priorities was to prevent relevant technology from languishing in the so-called “valley of death,” which occurs when the Pentagon takes years to finance and issue contracts for a program. Will Roper, a retired senior Air Force procurement executive, lauded Brown’s promotion to direct DoD acquisitions. In a social networking message, Roper said, “This is truly great news for those excited about having our military succeed in a modern age of global technology.”

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