DOD working to build database of innovative acquisitions

Heidi Shyu hopes the database will help innovation-focused offices to better work together and learn from each other.
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 building a database to track information on the technologies each service has acquired in an attempt to reduce redundancies in purchases, the department’s chief technology officer said Tuesday.

Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, described the effort as new and “ongoing” with the goal that the database will show trends on which acquisitions are making the most impact.

The DOD has a range of offices that offer small research grants and other non-traditional contracts to purchase emerging tech, like AFWERX or the Defense Innovation Unit. But there is little coordination of those investments among the offices, Shyu lamented.

“Whatever the best practices [are], I want to be able to share across the organizations,” she said at the Association of Old Crow’s International Symposium and Convention.


Some of the DOD’s innovation offices have tried individual efforts to increase collaboration outside of the military. DIU inked a deal with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to jointly develop tech and transition cybersecurity solutions from the private sector last December.

Shyu’s database would be a new means for the entire department to share information.

“I am a firm believer in teamwork,” she said. “We must always strive to increase collaboration at all levels.”

New opportunities for funding

Shyu announced another initiative Tuesday that she believes could also increase the overall efficiency in how DOD buys new tech.


Called the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER), the fund was recently set up to grant money to test new ideas submitted by services and combatant commands. Just in the first five weeks of open calls for submissions, the military submitted 203 white papers.

In addition to the military white papers, the new program could also be ready to accept pitches from private companies to fund by fiscal 2023.

Shyu said that by opening access to the private sector, it will generate better avenues to turn ideas into real, tested capabilities.

“The department also has to harness the incredible innovation ecosystem both domestically and globally,” she said.

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