IT/Networks

Space programs boost Defense Innovation Unit budget

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.”

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