The Department of Defense (DoD) is expanding its chief technology officer (CTO) role, which is the under secretary for research and engineering, to head the innovation steering group and oversee modernization efforts, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks announced today.

Currently, Heidi Shyu serves as the under secretary for research and engineering (R&E) at the DoD, a post she has served in since her Senate confirmation in July.

When highlighting different areas of modernization for the DoD during a Defense News Conference today, Hicks said, “One I think that perhaps folks aren’t paying much attention to is that we’re really strengthening the role of the chief technology officer here in the Defense Department, and that’s the under secretary for research and engineering.”

“I established an innovation steering group that that under secretary chairs, and now that we have Ms. Shyu on board and operating, she is out of the gates like a shot,” Hicks added. “She both is leading the innovation steering group, working closely though as well with the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council], and very much engaged in how we make sure that across the department we have a good sense of what that innovation ecosystem is.”

Hicks noted that the DoD currently has over 40 organizations “self-identified as sources of innovation,” which helps provide strong feedback loops for innovation to come into the department and helps the DoD “leverage best practices.”

“That’s what the chief technology officer approach can do for us,” Hicks said of the department’s innovation efforts.

As for the innovation steering group initiative which Shyu now oversees, Hicks said “we have not had anything comparable to this.”

“There really has not been a focused R&E … group that’s across the whole department at that level, an under secretary level led group, in my time in the Pentagon, at least that I can recall,” Hicks said. “What we think we’ve really been able to do here is, elevate substantially and empower that CTO, which Congress has created, that they’ve put forward their clear sense of the importance of that.”

“We really want to imbue that with concrete deliverables, and I think the innovation steering group is a mechanism, it’s not the deliverable, it’s the mechanism by which we can make that happen,” she added.

Hicks noted that the innovation steering group also feeds directly into the DoD’s Deputy’s Management Action Group (DMAG), which will “help empower it,” because “that’s where the money is.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.