WASHINGTON — Congress boosted the research and development budget of the Defense Innovation Unit by more than $20 million in its fiscal 2021 spending package sitting on the president’s desk.

Lawmakers allocated $66.9 million in research, development, test and evaluation funds for DIU, a Pentagon office that fields commercial technology from nontraditional contractors to department components. That amount is nearly $27.5 million more than DIU’s request, and a huge increase over its 2020 $46.6 million RDT&E budget.

Two space programs increased the DIU budget by $9.5 million, according to budget documents. The first increase was for DIU’s multi-orbit platform, which received a $4.5 million boost. The commercial prototype project looks at “in-space transportation and robotic platforms for on-orbit servicing, assembly and logistics,” said Mike Madsen, director of DIU strategic engagement, in a statement.

DIU also got a $5 million boost for its small tactical imagery satellites program, a commercial prototype project that’s assessing tactical geospatial intelligence capabilities for the war fighter, Madsen said.

The DIU budget increase was largely driven by a $15 million increase in prototype funds over the budget request for “dual-use technologies,” products adapted from the commercial market to solve military problems.

The office also received a $3 million increase in prototype funds for a talent management pilot program, called Gig Eagle.

“Gig Eagle is a new talent optimization app that will leverage commercial AI/ML technology to identify and engage the right talent in real-time,” Madsen said. “The initial rollout will unlock Reserve component talent for joint mission sets. We are currently working with a number of the services as potential partners.”

Andrew Eversden covered all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. Beforehand, he reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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