DOD elevates CTO and launches new innovation steering group

Kathleen Hicks says the department is trying to shift the focus of the role more towards innovation.
Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), toured a CERDEC lab along with CERDEC Director Henry Muller, CERDEC Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate Director John Willison, and CECOM Deputy Director Gary Martin to learn more about the center’s Hardware/Software Convergence initiative at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., June 16. CERDEC is modernizing and modularizing C4ISR and Electronic Warfare components so that there is a standard interface to better and more quickly facilitate the integration, compatibility and interoperability of new capabilities for the Army’s various platforms. (U.S. Army CERDEC photo by Kristen Kushiyama)

The Department of Defense is trying to shift the focus of its chief technology officer more towards innovation and also to elevate the role, the deputy secretary of defense said Wednesday.

Incumbent CTO, Heidi Shyu, now leads a new Innovation Steering Group that will focus on improving the innovation ecosystem within the DOD. The group is the first of its kind and will feed into the Deputy’s Management Action Group (DMAG), a powerful committee comprised of military service chiefs and department secretaries.

“We are moving out quickly to try and modernize our concepts, our culture and capabilities,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said Wednesday during a conference hosted by Defense News.

The steering group is already working on a new deputy secretary-led initiative called the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER). The initiative provides funds for services to experiment on tech that advances joint concepts, like Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the DOD’s new strategy to connect weapons and sensor in battle.


Processing requests for RDER funding will be one of many initiatives the new group will work on, Hicks said.

“There really has not been a focused [research, development, technology and engineering] group across the department at that level,” She said.

The CTO is gaining new status within the department as it disassembles the chief management officer position, a role eliminated by Congress in early 2021. The CMO had a mandate to increase the efficiency the DOD’s business operations, but a DOD advisory board saw it as redundant it self. Many of the CMO’s responsibilities will be devolved to other senior leaders like the CIO and chief data officer.

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