Army Reserve Pursuing Partnerships with Silicon Valley (UPDATED)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

In April, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a new initiative to encourage the Defense Department and Silicon Valley to work more closely together. Reservists are now playing a key role putting this effort together, a senior Army official said Aug. 13.

The partnership — which is led by the office of the secretary of defense — would better align the department with private industry and in turn help the Pentagon field more innovative technology, Carter said. To prove the Defense Department’s seriousness, he said he would stand up a permanent office in the Valley called Defense Innovation Unit X.

It is a “first-of-its-kind unit for us, staffed by some of our best active-duty and military personnel, plus key people from the Reserves who live here who are some [of] our best technical talent,” Carter said in Palo Alto, California. “They will strengthen existing relationships and build new ones; help scout for new technologies; and help function as a local interface for the department. Down the road, they could help startups find new work to do with DoD.”

Defense Innovation Unit X is just one of the many public-private partnerships the Army Reserve participates in, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve. 

“Most of my force … [is made up of] citizen soldiers who work in the private sector in a technical field,” he said during a media breakfast in Washington, D.C. “The Army Reserve is the most connected to industry and the private sector of any service or component in the DoD.”

When the Pentagon began looking into partnering with Silicon Valley, it realized that it could tap into the knowledge and expertise that many reservists have, Talley said. “When they started investigating that, it was because they were looking at the Army Reserve and saying, ‘The Army Reserve has this connectivity.’”

The Reserve has strong ties to cyber security companies on the West Coast, he noted. “It was recognized by the Army … [that] that’s a relationship that we need to explore,” he said.

The Defense Department’s cyber strategy said, “DoD will draw on the National Guard and Reserve components as a resource for expertise and to foster creative solutions to cyber security problems.

The Reserve component offers a unique capability for supporting each of DoD’s missions, including for engaging the defense industrial base and the commercial sector. It represents DoD’s critical surge capacity for cyber responders.”

The Reserves are actively involved with Defense Innovation Unit X, he said, and "I’m excited about it because that’s a chance for us to kind of showcase that connectivity.”

During his tenure as chief of the Reserves, Talley said encouraging public-private partnerships has been one of his biggest initiatives.

“People say, ‘Why are you pushing that so hard?’ Well, it’s because of my background. My background tells me that … governments of the world can’t solve the problems. It’s going to take governments and the private sector,” he said. “We are the lead in the linkage to the private sector and academia.”

Prior to returning to active military service, Talley was the CEO and president of Environmental Technology Solutions and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.

He noted that soldiers in the Army Reserve hold 75 percent of all doctorial degrees in the Army. Half of all master degrees in the total Army are within the Army Reserve. That gives it a responsibility to lead the discussion, he said.

Developing robust public-private partnerships is a “progressive” idea that is shaking up the Army and will “change everything,” he said.

Clarification: Defense Innovation Unit X is led by the office of the secretary of defense.

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Cybersecurity

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