Pentagon picks former Symantec CEO, China report co-author to lead Defense Innovation Unit

By Justin Doubleday / September 24, 2018 at 12:25 PM

The Pentagon is bringing on the former CEO of cybersecurity firm Symantec and co-author of an influential report on China's technology transfer strategy to serve as the new head of the Defense Innovation Unit.

Michael Brown, who most recently served in the White House as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, has been tapped as the DIU managing director, the Defense Department announced today. A Pentagon official confirmed today is his first day on the job. 

Between 2014 and 2016, Brown was chairman and CEO of Symantec Corp., a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity firm. He had served on the board of the company since 2005. Between 1995 and 2003, Brown was CEO of the computer storage firm Quantum Corp.

As a Presidential Innovation Fellow starting in November 2016, Brown co-authored a report released by DIU earlier this year examining China's strategy of investing in early-stage technology ventures. The report has been cited frequently this year as lawmakers moved to strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) through the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act.

Brown takes over DIU after it had been without a permanent leader since Raj Shah, the first director of the organization, left the post in February to return to the private sector.

In August, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced DIU was no longer an experiment, removing the 'x' from the organization's name. It was established by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2015 to increase ties between the Pentagon and the commercial technology sector. Carter re-vamped the organization in 2016 by moving it to a "partnership-style" structure led by investors and technologists. 

"My background complements the strong team that has already accomplished great things in the last two years," Brown said as part of the DOD statement. "The organization is no longer a startup and is already speeding the adoption of leading commercial technology across the military. Given that the nation is in a technology race, growing and accessing the National Security Innovation Base is more important than ever before."

Mike Griffin, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, also is quoted in the statement as saying "there is no better person" than Brown to lead DIU into its next chapter.

"Mike's extensive Silicon Valley career speaks for itself, as he has experience in both hardware from his time at Quantum, as well as software at Symantec," Griffin said. "Mike's notable academic contributions in both assessment of Chinese technological advances and CFIUS reform round out his unique background, and I am pleased that he chose to serve our nation as DIU director."