Defense Innovation Board membership includes Thornberry, Roper, Gordon

By Briana Reilly / October 17, 2022 at 10:47 AM

Members of the soon-to-reconvene Defense Innovation Board will include a former lawmaker, ex-military service acquisition chief, a prior intelligence community official and more, Inside Defense has learned.

Those individuals are among the seven appointees to the newly reinstated DIB, which will be led by former New York Mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and is set to meet for the first time today in two years.

The members, according to a list obtained by Inside Defense, are:

  • Mac Thornberry, former ranking member and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and current CAE Board of Directors member.
  • Will Roper, a former Air Force acquisition chief who now serves as a senior adviser at McKinsey and Co., in addition to teaching at Georgia Tech.
  • Susan Gordon, the former principal deputy director of national intelligence and deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. She is now on the boards of CACI International, Avantus Federal, MITRE and BlackSky.
  • Retired Adm. Michael Mullen, who previously served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of naval operations.
  • Ryan Swann, the chief data analytics officer for Vanguard and previous director of data analytics for the General Services Administration's Office of Government-Wide Policy.
  • Gilda Barbarino, the president of the Olin College of Engineering who previously served as dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York.
  • Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and Inflection AI, who is also a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock.

The DIB is poised to meet in a closed-to-the-public meeting from noon to 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time today, according to a Federal Register notice from late last week. The public portion of the board’s meeting will begin at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, per a previously posted LinkedIn event notice.

Despite the impending gathering, the board’s membership hadn’t yet been publicly announced. Politico first reported on the panel’s appointees this morning. DIB and other advisory committees previously saw their operations paused after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in winter 2021 directed a so-called "zero-based review" of the Pentagon's panels.

It is unclear which areas board members may want to focus on, with the Federal Register notice only spotlighting “senior DOD leaders' defense innovation priorities and challenges and the broader innovation and national security landscape” as part of the closed session portion of events.

But in the lead-up to today’s meeting, there has been a strong congressional focus on the four-decade-old Small Business Innovation Research and complementary Small Business Technology Transfer programs -- areas in which Roper has experience. During his tenure at the Air Force, he oversaw efforts to open up and streamline those programs by seeking to target first-time commercial vendors and bring them into the military technology space.

That includes the addition of an “open topics” approach that seeks to give companies the ability to pitch their solutions to military problems. Lawmakers during the most recent SBIR and STTR reauthorization debate -- the first since open topics were implemented -- worked to expand their adoption across military components as part of their compromise three-year extension plan that avoided a programmatic lapse.

But SBIR underwent further changes under Roper’s watch at the Air Force, including an effort to help the program bridge the so-called acquisition “valley of death” by shepherding awardees from phase II to III of SBIR through the supplemental Strategic Funding Increase. STRATFI bolsters the dollar value of phase II contracts and enables prototype production, which challenging Air Force officials to think of themselves as investors and “less like an acquirer or procurer,” as Roper previously told Inside Defense.

The panel, formerly chaired by Eric Schmidt, the past chief executive officer of Google, is tasked with providing “strategic insights and recommendations on technology and innovation to address the Department’s highest national security priorities,” the Pentagon previously noted.