Commission chaired by Secretaries Mark T. Esper and Deborah Lee James to recommend actions for sharpening US defense-industrial edge

The Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security announced today the launch of Breaking and Remaking the US Defense Innovation System: A Commission on Improving DoD Engagement with New Companies and Innovators. Over several months, a distinguished group of commissioners will develop recommendations to better enable the Department of Defense (DoD) to rapidly absorb commercial technologies. The Commission will be co-chaired by the 27th US Secretary of Defense Hon. Mark T. Esper and the 23rd US Secretary of the Air Force Hon. Deborah Lee James. The Commission’s work will culminate in a published roadmap in 2023 for resolving critically important defense-industrial problems.

Harnessing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, directed energy, and robotics will be imperative to deterring and, when necessary, prevailing in future wars with China and Russia, but existing defense acquisition and budgetary processes are insufficient for doing so. Outdated processes and rigid bureaucratic barriers are severely impeding DoD’s ability to rapidly embrace technological innovations. And, while the Pentagon’s last major modernization effort—the Third Offset Strategy—spurred numerous initiatives, and industry leaders are paving the way for high tech warfare, the arduous process for partnering with DoD dis-incentivizes their making big bets on defense capabilities.

Most recently, the 2022 National Defense Strategy Fact Sheet stresses the need to build “enduring advantages” through departmental reform and technological advancement. In line with that priority, this Atlantic Council Commission is established to spur a new approach to defense innovation. Generously supported by Booz Allen Hamilton, Palantir Technologies, Peraton, Schmidt Futures, and Snowpoint Ventures the Commission will consider how DoD officials can recalibrate the department’s risk tolerance, realign relevant acquisition and budgetary processes, and make big bets on novel commercial and dual-use technologies.

“Modernizing the Defense Department’s acquisition system and culture to better engage America’s innovators and field their cutting-edge technologies far more quickly will be absolutely critical to winning the future,” said Esper. “We established this Commission to address the urgent need for DoD to absorb commercial innovation and speed up the delivery of critical capabilities to the field, or else lose its decisive military advantage on a battlefield increasingly defined by emerging and advanced technologies,” said James.

The Commission’s two Co-Chairs will be joined by a team of Commissioners comprised of former government and current industry leaders, to include:

  • Wendy R. Anderson, Senior Vice President, Palantir Technologies
  • Amb. Barbara M. Barrett, Board Director, Atlantic Council; 25th US Secretary of the Air Force
  • Gen James E. Cartwright, USMC (ret.), Board Director, Atlantic Council; 8th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Steven Escaravage, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Frank A. Finelli, Managing Director, The Carlyle Group
  • Hon. Michèle Flournoy, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, WestExec Advisors; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
  • Scott Frederick, Managing Partner, Sands Capital
  • Hon. James “Hondo” Geurts, Distinguished Fellow, Business Executives for National Security; Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition
  • Adam Hammer, Counselor, Schmidt Futures; Chief Operating Officer, Qrypt
  • Peter Levine, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Defense Analyses
  • Doug Philippone, Co-Founder, Snowpoint Ventures
  • MajGen Arnold L. Punaro, USMC (ret.), Chief Executive Officer, The Punaro Group; Member, Advisory Council, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council
  • Mara Motherway, Senior Vice President, Peraton
  • Nick Sinai, Senior Advisor, Insight Partners; Senior Fellow, The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Josh Wolfe, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Lux Capital
  • Hon. Robert O. Work, Senior Counselor for Defense and Distinguished Senior Fellow for Defense and National Security, Center for a New American Security; 32nd US Deputy Secretary of Defense

To learn more about the Commission, please visit here. To keep up with the project’s latest developments, subscribe to Forward Defense. Contact [email protected] for media inquiries.