Eric Schmidt, ex-Google CEO and current executive chairman of its parent company Alphabet, has been appointed chair of a new Defense Innovation Advisory Board that will essentially help the US Department of Defense act more like a tech company.
The board, which will consist of “up to 12 individuals who have successfully led large private and public organizations,” will be tasked with advising the Pentagon “on areas that are deeply familiar to Silicon Valley companies.” Tasks are as varied as “rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis in business decision making, the use of mobile and cloud applications and organizational information sharing.”
The Pentagon said the board won’t engage in talks about military operations or strategy, which is reassuring. Instead, it sounds like their efforts will be toward helping the DoD modernize how it actually operates: working more efficiently, more quickly, using modern applications and – as weird as it sounds – innovating.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is also looking to build bridges with Silicon Valley and the private sector at large. It’s not surprising he’s turned westward: government is notoriously slow, and clashes between companies and the feds over technology are becoming more common.
Just yesterday, a technology expert testified before Congress that the FBI, which is trying to force Apple to build a special software to decrypt an iPhone, should focus on developing its own technologies as well as talent recruiting efforts so that it can build in-house 21st Century solutions, rather than forcing private firms to do something that would put their own users at risk.
Still, the fact that Schmidt and the other board members are working for a military entity is somewhat unsettling, even if they aren’t building new weaponry themselves.