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Industry Observers Weigh in on DOD’s Silicon Valley Outreach for Tech Innovation; William LaPlante Quoted

The Department of Defense is looking beyond large, traditional contractors and setting its sights on startup companies to keep up with China’s advancement in military technology, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Some industry watchers expressed support for DOD’s move, but they said the department should fortify strategies, including reforming its acquisition process, in order to ensure that partnerships with the private sector will yield innovations.

China’s defense and aerospace sector has a significant advantage over the U.S. in terms of capital infusion, which is estimated to be over $1 trillion, according to Stanford Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation co-founder Steve Blank.

Blank said the department needs to radically overhaul its acquisition system if DOD wants tech startups to contribute more to defense programs.

Trae Stephens, a Founders Fund partner, pointed to the startup market dynamics as one of the forces driving venture capital firms to invest in the defense industry.

Research company Pitchbook Data estimates the U.S. aerospace and defense market has nearly $6 billion in private funding.

Pentagon acquisition chief William LaPlante thinks emerging technology from Silicon Valley holds promise for DOD missions. The two-time Wash100 Award recipient, however, emphasized the relevance of military capabilities that could be used in armed conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.

LaPlante told WSJ that some companies were able to aid in the conflict by providing technology, such as SpaceX‘s satellite internet service.

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