AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is now home to the third Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, outpost in the country. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made the official announcement Wednesday at Capital Factory, a technology incubator that will now house the local Department of Defense office.
“Capital Factory will be our home, at least initially, and it makes perfect sense because there are a lot of innovators here already,” Carter said.
The goal for the project is to connect and strengthen the relationship between the Pentagon and the nation’s tech hubs, allowing military establishments to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies that the private sector is developing.
“The way DIUx works is it connects the innovators here, brings companies that may not have done any business with defense or just trying it out or ones that have long done business with us to the customers. We spend almost $600 billion a year on national defense and $72 billion of that just on research and development alone. So we are connecting Austin’s innovators to that huge need,” Carter said.
For certain Austin entrepreneurs, the announcement is welcoming.
“I’ve been in cyber security ever since I served in the Navy and we see a lot of problems that should have been dead years ago that still exist,” said Marcus Carey, founder of VThreat, a software cybersecurity platform designed to make sure companies and users don’t get hacked.
Carey says he’s a white hat hacker, which means he tests how secure systems are by attempting to exploit it. “It’s almost like having someone break into your home and just telling you how to break into your home, and not actually stealing all your stuff like a bad guy would do,” Carey said.
His company is exactly the kind of candidate the new DIUx is looking for.
“We are actually looking to reach out and build bridges with people who have not worked with us before and, yes, including people who have reservations,” Carter said.
The Department of Defense plans to let companies pitch their ideas in the same way they would to private sector investors. The DoD would then cut checks and supply funding for research and development to those companies they like.
“The best way to raise money is through customers and if you have the DoD as a customer, it’s going to be a nice reference and that will attract other investors to believe in it,” Carey said. While it may draw local attention, Carey hopes the results span beyond the walls of Texas. “It’s going to help people build real solutions to solve real world problems and possibly protect our country.”
The new Austin office will be led by Christy Abizaid, a former U.S deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. National Guard members and Central Texas reservists already involved in Austin’s tech community will work at Capital Factory.
The Department of Defense opened its first DIUx office in 2015 in northern California’s Silicon Valley. In July, Carter unveiled a second outpost in Boston. Carter said operations could expand in Austin.
Top 10 DoD Contractors for FY 2015
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- The Boeing Company
- Raytheon Company
- General Dynamics Corporation
- Northrop Grunman Corporation
- United Technologies Corporation
- L3 Communications Holdings Inc.
- BAE Systems, PlC
- Humana Inc.
- Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.