With Great Risks Come Great Rewards

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are beginning to engage with spin-offs, start-up companies, and “Silicon Valley” culture, creating a new and exciting environment for these small companies. With the participation from DoD and DHS, digital human modeling (DHM) companies could experience an increase in the use of their software and tools, ultimately providing innovation and solving problems for the government and military.

So why exactly is the partnering of the DoD and Silicon Valley important, and who does this new relationship benefit?

The DoD spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on developing new weapons systems to implement in the military, and yet seems to find itself always behind the curve, due to the “breakneck pace” of the 21st century’s technological advancements. No matter how hard the DoD tries to buy and implement new technology, it can be outdated in just a matter of months, simply due to the nature of technology and the pace at which it’s advancing. Furthermore, the acquisition process can be prohibitively slow. So, why limit problem solving to the military community? Why not crowd source innovation, and top of talent outside of the military, in order to solve problems that could ultimately benefit the civilian sector as well as the military?

By using software created in the very heart of innovation, Silicon Valley, the DoD can make improvements to the military at the same pace that technology is advancing. Understanding the Silicon Valley culture is likely the most difficult part for the DoD to grasp. The nature of innovation on the west coast is to fail, fail fast, fail often, and try again until new software and systems are created. Venture capitalists readily invest money into start-up companies in the Valley because of the high rate of return once the failure ceases and the success begins. This process has proved successful in the Valley, as new technology and software is emerging constantly.

However, the DoD has a different process involving red tape, regulations, and secrecy, making the funding very tight and carefully planned out in order to produce success with little money to waste. This process includes no room for risk, with government officials being wary of even the slightest chance of failure, no matter how big the benefit for the military may be. Adopting the Silicon Valley culture of failing and repeating until success is made will be a very large step for the DoD to make, but if anything the Valley has shown us that the greater the risks, the greater the reward, all in a more compact time period. It is possible that adopting this culture may actually save money, as small start-up companies usually have very few employees creating new technology, so it would take less money to invest in these “fail faster” companies than big corporations which require huge sums in order to innovate. Instead of buying new widely available commercial technology every week, month, year, etc., the DoD needs to integrate these DHM start-up companies’ defense software and devices and learn to use them faster, better, and apply the technology to the necessary parts of the military.

Having the DoD set up shop in Silicon Valley is an exciting new partnership, for the benefit of national defense and the DHM companies that the DoD chooses to partner with. These companies chosen will receive funding and national attention, allowing them to expand and create even more new technology, ultimately closing the gap and keeping the military up to date with ever-advancing technology.

 

Sources:

https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news/2016/10/06/news-release-dhs-st-selects-10-start-ups-first-responder

http://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/626602/dods-silicon-valley-innovation-experiment-begins

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/lists/posts/post.aspx?ID=1707

 

Anna Schuchert, Social Media Communications, SantosHuman Inc.

 

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