Google's Schmidt to head new Pentagon advisory board

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt addresses the Christian Democratic Union party economic council in Berlin, June 9, 2015. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

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Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is to head a new Defense Innovation Advisory Board for the Pentagon, aiming to bring the bleeding-edge technology and paradigm-shattering management theories of Silicon Valley to the lumbering behemoth of the Defense Department.

It’s one of a series of measures that has stemmed from Defense Secretary Ash Carter Pentagon’s relationships with companies in the technology sector, including nontraditional partners like startups and small firms. ‘You can’t just keep doing what we are doing,’ Carter told attendees Wednesday. ‘The world changes too fast, our competitors change too fast.’

Modeled on the existing Defense Business Board, which works to bring private sector best practices into the Pentagon, the 12-member innovation board, ‘will seek to advise the department on areas that are deeply familiar to Silicon Valley companies, such as rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis in business decision making, the use of mobile and cloud applications, and organizational information sharing,’ said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook in a statement.

The board will not, however, take part in any ‘discussion of military operations or strategy,’ he added.

 

Schmidt told reporters he had a list of possible members, but had not yet contacted them, Reuters reported.

In addition to Google, Alphabet is the parent company to Calico, the health research lab; Google X, the technology lab that pursues long-term risky ‘moonshot’ projects like the self-driving car; and Google Ventures, its venture-capital arm that backs startups.

Carter, on his third visit to the West Coast since taking office just over a year ago, said the board would help make the Pentagon more ‘agile’ — a management philosophy inescapable amid the giants of disruptive technologies. Generals can’t go on saying ‘give us two years to buy stuff,’ he said, adding he was ‘completely intolerant’ of how hard it was for companies to sell to the federal government.

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