Lawmakers question whether the intelligence community needs its own ‘WERX’ tech incubator

An NDAA provision would mandate intel agencies to investigate their gaps with deploying AI and other emerging tech.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (C) listens during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 08, 2022 in Washington, DC. The committee met to discuss worldwide threats including Russia's invasion of Ukraine and heard from intelligence officials including both Haines, Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Paul Nakasone, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director William Burns, and Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Tucked into the text of the 4,408-page National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023 is a provision that would mandate multiple federal spy organizations to assess what the intelligence community might gain from establishing its own “ICWERX” innovation arm.

This envisioned technology incubator would be modeled after the Air Force’s premier innovation-driver, AFWERX — and other Pentagon-led organizations inspired by it, including SPACEWERX and DISAWERX.

Specifically, Section 6722 of the legislation would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to work with CIA and National Security Agency leaders to comprehensively assess “whether the [IC] would benefit from the establishment of a new organization to be known as ‘ICWERX,’ the mission and activities of which would incorporate lessons learned from AFWERX of the Air Force (or such successor program), the Defense Innovation Unit of the Department of Defense, In-Q-Tel, and other programs sponsored by the federal government with a focus on accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies for mission-relevant applications or innovation.” 

A report on that evaluation would be due to several congressional intelligence and defense-focused committees within roughly 6 months of the NDAA’s passage. 


Among other requirements, the assessment would need to include all the companies that have provided the IC with artificial intelligence capabilities over the last 5 years, a review of avenues for small- and medium-sized companies to provide such solutions — and whether the formation of ICWERX would “provide the intelligence community with greater access to innovative companies at the forefront of emerging technologies.”

Officials involved would also need to pinpoint “any areas in which the intelligence community lacks resources, authorities, personnel, expertise, or institutional mechanisms necessary” to incorporate “the technological innovations of emerging technology companies, including in software and hardware.”

Both chambers of Congress have approved this provision in the NDAA, which is currently awaiting President Biden’s signature.

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop's Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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