From Silicon Valley to the Pentagon: The Future of Defense Innovation

a16z Podcast

Mar 7 2024 • 43 mins

The last few decades have been a period of transition for defense. An increasing number of startups have begun to rival large defense primes, the industry has gradually become a calculus of both hardware and software, and exponential technologies have forced the DoD to rethink how it has  traditionally done business.

These changing conditions were some of the inputs to resulting in the DIU – Defense Innovation Unit – starting in 2015 within the Department of Defense, focused on accelerating the adoption of technology.

In this episode recorded at a16z’s American Dynamism Summit in January, a16z General Partner Katherine Boyle is joined by the Director of the DIU, Doug Beck, plus two critical founders ushering in this new era of defense: Brian Schimpf, cofounder and CEO of Anduril and Brandon Tseng, cofounder of Shield AI.

So what does the next wave of defense innovation really look like? Let’s find out.

00:00 - The Future of Defense Innovation

03:30 - The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

05:45 - Adoption of Startup tech by the DoD

07:42 - Acquisition, Budgeting, and Contracting

13:17 - Traditional Primes vs Startups

14:25 - Cost-Plus Fixed Fee Contracts

20:11 - The Replicator Program

22:26 - The New Threat Environment

27:11 - Scale and Readiness for Modern Warfare

32:15 - Procurement Reform and Feasibility

39:30 - Success Metrics for Defense


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