The Defense Innovation Unit's organizational arm dedicated to forming ties with the academic and entrepreneurial sectors has named a new managing director, filling a leadership slot that had been left vacant for more than a year.
The National Security Innovation Network announced this week that Cheryl Ingstad has been tapped to helm the entity. Ingstad most recently served as the first director of the Energy Department's artificial intelligence and technology office.
After being sworn in as the head of NSIN last week, Ingstad has kicked off a regional tour beginning in the northwestern part of the U.S. that’ll eventually include “all of our major hubs throughout the country over the next three months,” spokeswoman Suzanne Zurn told Inside Defense.
NSIN was previously known as the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, which originated as a public-private partnership with New York University in 2015. The entity was renamed under then-Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, who also included it within DIU’s purview.
Morgan Plummer served as the first managing director of the renamed outfit, departing NSIN in May 2021. The role remained open since then, until Ingstad was tapped to lead NSIN this month, though Justin Dunnicliff, the deputy, most recently served as acting managing director from June to November 2022, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The leadership post wasn’t the only vacancy within DIU; the unit’s former head, Michael Brown, departed in early September, leaving Deputy Mike Madsen to serve in an acting capacity. Madsen recently warned the small-budget unit could be left without a permanent leader until the January to March timeframe, saying at the end of September that the search at that point was “probably mid-stream right now.”
Madsen also noted that Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is “personally involved” in the search, an inclusion that he said “is a message to the ecosystem of the importance that she sees in the next director.”
Ingstad in this week’s release said she sees NSIN as “poised for scaling and accelerating the growth and adoption of innovations from diverse and non-traditional organizations in every part of our nation.”
“It is an honor to be appointed Managing Director of NSIN and to work with a team of such talented, accomplished and passionate leaders who collaborate with start-ups, academia, large and small businesses and non-profits to drive innovations that will give our Armed Forces the technological advantage against any adversary,” she added.
The network saw a fiscal year 2022 enacted budget of $36.27 million, according to a breakout previously provided to Inside Defense, a sum that was bolstered by a $15 million congressional funding increase. For FY-23, NSIN requested just over $22 million.