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Mattis urges closer ties between Pentagon, defense industry

Mattis urges closer ties between Pentagon, defense industry
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters US, South Korea cancel another military exercise Top US Afghan commander drew his sidearm during this week's attack: report MORE on Monday pressed for closer ties between the military and the defense industry and said he wants to open talks with U.S. firms “much more robustly."

“I want no longer a gulf between us to deny us the very advances that American industry is out there and executing for themselves and the private sector," he told attendees at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington. 

Such an open dialogue would help the Defense Department move faster in researching and engineering new weapons systems. Without it, "our advantage is being eroded," Mattis said. 

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“The intention here is that we move faster in research and engineering,” he said.

Mattis, who lived for three years in Silicon Valley after retiring from the Marine Corps, said the time spent on the West Coast showed him what industry is able to accomplish. 

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter while heading the Pentagon established the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). Carter launched the effort to more quickly deliver new technology to the Pentagon and build new relationships with technology companies, with offices in Silicon Valley and Boston. He also created a chief innovation officer position at the Defense Department.

But since President Trump took office, many have questioned whether the administration would support and continue DIUx.

Mattis, however, seems to have fully embraced the effort.

In addition to better communication, the Pentagon’s congressionally-mandated split of its acquisition, technology and logistics arm will help the Defense Department better adopt new technology, he said. 

The Pentagon will now have former Textron Systems CEO Ellen Lord as undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, with another role open to tackle research and engineering. 

Mattis said recruiting leaders from industry, such as Lord, would help the Pentagon work with industry more smoothly.

“We’ve got people in there who know what they're doing,” he said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it.”

Mattis gave a similar speech a few weeks ago at the Air Force Association Annual National Convention. At that event, he pressed “that we open the lines of communication in a way that consider industry, American industry and allied industry where it's appropriate, as partners” in the defense of the United States.