With new hires and a fresh vision, the Pentagon unveils DIU 3.0

Doug Beck unveiled his strategic vision for DIU 3.0 in a 9-page plan.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visits Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit, Moffett Field, Calif, Dec. 1, 2023. Secretary Austin spend time with DIU personnel who are accelerating the adoption of leading commercial technology throughout the military and growing the national security innovation base.DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

With an explicit goal of addressing staffing shortfalls and other obstacles to accomplishing its mission, the Defense Innovation Unit is entering its next era: DIU 3.0.

The military innovation hub’s director Doug Beck (a Navy reserve captain and former Apple executive) unveiled his strategic vision for DIU 3.0 in a 9-page plan on Wednesday.

“The imperative for DIU 3.0 is clear. Against a backdrop of international challenges and with the world’s most capable technology sector, we can and must do more to identify and adopt impactful commercial technologies at speed and scale. With recent changes and support from DOD leadership and Congress, we are now poised to help our partners across the department, interagency, commercial tech sector, and allied and partner nations meet these goals,” Beck wrote.

But at multiple points, he also spotlights how insufficient staffing levels, slow procurement pathways and other challenges have kept DIU from being able to deliver the complete strategic impact with dual-use technologies the U.S. now requires.


“Even signature examples of DIU projects (e.g., maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technology and the commercial space and communications solutions playing critical roles in Ukraine) are viewed tepidly by some in the private sector because the lack of a reliable path to scale results in lower risk-adjusted investment returns relative to the broader commercial tech market,” Beck said.

Launched in 2015 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, DIU was first designed to help Pentagon components team with the commercial sector and field cutting-edge tech to the military more quickly and less costly than traditional government buying methods would permit.

In his new strategic plan for 3.0, Beck discusses how the unit has matured through its different iterations, so far.

He noted that DIU 1.0 was primarily focused on building a foundational bridge between DOD and the technology sector. From there, the second phase of DIU fixated on proving that defense innovation problems could be solved with industry-built tech — and prototyped quickly for military customers.

“The challenge now is to take the capabilities developed during DIU 2.0 and apply them with the focus, scale, and speed necessary to deliver the strategic effect required. This is what DIU 3.0 is all about,” Beck said.


“The plan Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin approved for DIU 3.0 outlines the critical shift in focus, action, and resourcing that DIU will undertake to deliver the rapid strategic effect demanded. It relies on the years of defense innovation experience up to this point, and on over 300 discussions with stakeholders across the department, commercial technology companies, tech-focused investors, defense primes, the interagency, international partners, Congress, think tanks, and other non-governmental organizations,” he added.

Beck told DefenseScoop in an email: “DIU’s process and focus on speed with our current DoD partners will continue but they may see new opportunities to scale their capabilities across the Department more easily due to DIU’s growing partnership with the rest of the Department, and growing role in delivering impact from commercial technology … We face an imperative to move quickly to leverage the incredible power and dynamism of the commercial tech sector to help the Department of Defense deter conflict – or win if forced to fight. The Department, Congress and Commercial tech sector are all poised to allow us to scale this success – and the DIU team is ready to deliver.”

DIU’s next phase comes after Austin elevated and realigned the unit as a direct report under his leadership.

“The Secretary has already approved plans to increase DIU’s staffing, including the addition of two senior executive Deputy Directors based in the Pentagon, both of whom are now in place and working hard to make DIU 3.0 a reality,” Beck wrote.

Those two senior officials are Aditi Kumar, DIU’s new deputy director for strategy, policy and national security partnerships, and Kirstin Riesbeck, DIU’s new deputy director for people, finance and management, a spokesperson told DefenseScoop on Wednesday.


Broadly, the approach for DIU 3.0 is built around eight detailed, “mutually reinforcing lines of effort,” Beck wrote in his vision. They include: 

  1. Focus on the most critical capability gaps and embed with warfighters to do so
  2. Partner at every level with DOD’s “engines of scale”
  3. Catalyze the DOD’s innovation entities into a community of impact
  4. Take the partnership with the commercial tech sector to a new level
  5. Realize the enormous potential of tech partnerships with allies and partners
  6. Build the trust and momentum required for speed and scale
  7. Retool DIU to support all of the above
  8. Provide the secretary and deputy secretary with “world class dual fluency advice”

Some of those inclusions spotlight actions DIU has been taking in the near term to operate in a “warfighter-centric” fashion and synchronize military needs with existing commercial capabilities.

For instance, among other new roles in the unit, Beck confirmed that DIU is now embedding personnel with combatant commands to ultimately “help shape demand for technology and ensure that innovation efforts are unwaveringly focused on meeting it.”

In response to questions from DefenseScoop, a DIU spokesperson on Tuesday also confirmed that Justin Norman has been tapped as the unit’s lead embed for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and Glenn McCartan now serves as DIU’s embed for U.S. European Command.


“As a nation, we cannot ask our service members to put their lives on the line without the best capabilities available, and we cannot afford to mortgage our strategic future to inaction,” Beck wrote.

Updated on Feb. 9, 2024, at 1:35 PM: This story has been updated to include additional comments from DIU Director Doug Beck that were provided to DefenseScoop in an email.

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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