Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jeff Bezos join DOD innovation board

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jeff Bezos join DOD innovation board
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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson were among the big names Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday as joining the Pentagon’s recently formed Defense Innovation Advisory Board.


“I've given them the very specific task of identifying innovative private sector best practices that could be of use to DOD [the Department of Defense] — not unlike our recent Hack the Pentagon pilot program, which invited hackers to help find vulnerabilities in our networks," Carter said during an event in Boston. "It's a perfect example of the kind of thing I'm looking for the innovation board to recommend."

Carter was in Boston to announce the official opening of the Pentagon’s second office of its Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a program that started in Silicon Valley with the intention of building better relationships with tech companies.

Carter, who has made reaching out to the technology world a signature part of his tenure, announced the board’s creation in March during a trip to Silicon Valley.

The board, which will be headed by Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is meant to advise the Pentagon on a slew of topics familiar to the tech industry. That includes rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis in decisionmaking, the use of mobile and cloud applications, and information sharing.

The board will begin its work before the summer’s over and has been tasked with giving its initial recommendations by October, Carter said.

Prior to Tuesday, Carter announced three members of the board: Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn; Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute; and William McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas system.

In addition to Bezos and Tyson, Carter announced Tuesday the rest of the names that will make up the 15-person board. 

They are Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business; Danny Hillis, computer theorist and co-founder of Applied Inventions; Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Marne Levine, chief operating officer of Instagram; J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology of United Technologies; Milo Medin, vice president of access services at Google Capital; Richard Murray, a professor at the California Institute of Technology; Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America; and Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School.

All of the members will have to complete a Pentagon “onboarding” process before their appointments are finalized.