DoD asks business board to ponder presidential transition

The Defense Business Board will be thinking deeply in the coming months about the presumptive presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work signed out a memo last week tasking the board to share its private sector knowledge of management transitions and use them to assess the presidential transition of power.

“These opinions and recommendations should offer advices on the unique challenges and opportunities of a management position within an enterprise as vast and diverse as the” Defense Department,” the memo stated.

Work’s memo asks for a series of topic papers germane to the Pentagon’s current and incoming senior executives on how to manage a large-scale enterprise through transition.

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The topics of the papers will be presented to the board during its July meeting.

Work is the Pentagon’s lead on the presidential transition.

“I’m going to be central to the transition, so I’m going to be able to personally talk with the transition team and explain to them what we have pursued and why we pursued it and let them make their own decisions,” Work said last month.

Leaving a legacy

Part of that responsibility is making sure the legacy of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Third Offset Strategy continues into the next administration.

DoD introduced the  third offset strategy to keep the U.S. technologically superior to its rivals. The strategy is investing in specific research areas like man-machine teaming, autonomous learning systems, semi-autonomous weapons systems and assisted human operations.

That may be harder than it seems as parts of the strategy have come under fire recently.

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Just eight months into the creation of the Defense Department’s Silicon Valley outreach office, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), Carter replaced the leadership and declared a new iteration of the program.

In order to transition the policy smoothly, Work said. Congress needs to be on board. The House has been mostly complimentary of the third offset and willing to help usher it into the next administration.

But when it comes some offset initiatives like DIUx, Congress has been more skeptical.

The House version of the 2017 defense authorization bill states the House Armed Services Committee is concerned by DoD’s “pinpoint focus” on one geographic region and the dedication of significant funding at such a nascent period of the development of the organization.

“The committee is concerned that outreach is proceeding without sufficient attention being paid to breaking down the barriers that have traditionally prevented nontraditional contractors from supporting defense needs, like lengthy contracting processes and the inability to transition technologies,” the bill states.

It goes on to say DIUx may have insufficient oversight and coordination with laboratories and engineering centers.

Work said one of the DoD’s goals is to give the next administration a lot of options when deciding where to take the strategy.

“We thought rail guns were something we were really going to go after, but it turns out that powder guns firing the same hypervelocity projectiles gets you almost as much as you would get out of the electromagnetic rail gun, but it’s something we can do much faster,” Work said. “We are going to say [to the next administration] ‘Look, we believe this is the place where you want to put your money, but we’re going to have enough money in there for both the electromagnetic rail gun and the powder gun.’ So if the new administration says ‘No really the electromagnetic rail gun is the way I want to go,’ knock yourself out, we’ve set you up for success.”