Pentagon Innovation Unit leader withdraws nomination for senior post

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The director of a Pentagon unit that works with technology companies withdrew his appointment as Secretary of State for Acquisitions for the Department of Defense following an investigation into his office by an inspector general.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations have identified Michael Brown, a former Silicon Valley executive, as a leader in the Pentagon‘s efforts to streamline the military’s adoption of private sector innovation and China’s access to US technology to refuse.

Mr Brown, who currently heads the Defense Innovation Division, withdrew from consideration as Undersecretary of State for Defense for Acquisition and Maintenance in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week. In the letter, of which the Wall Street Journal saw a copy, Mr. Brown said an investigation into the DIU by the Pentagon inspector general would delay his nomination for up to a year and he would therefore resign.

The letter did not contain any details about the investigation. A spokeswoman for the Pentagon Inspector General declined to comment on the matter. A Pentagon spokesman declined to provide details of the investigation.

Mr. Brown did not respond to a request for comment. A DIU spokeswoman said Mr Brown planned to remain director of the unit but did not want to comment on the investigation.

Defense One, an online defense and national security news site, reported in April that a former DIU executive named Bob Ingegneri had filed a complaint with the Inspector General that half a dozen employees, including himself, preferred to be hired had been treated. Mr Ingegneri did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon founded the DIU in 2015 to improve relationships with commercial tech companies and better capitalize on rapid innovation in the private sector. The DIU has offices in Silicon Valley, Boston and other technology centers.

Mr. Brown spent decades in the technology sector and was chief executive of Quantum Corp., a data storage company, and Symantec Corp.

, a software and cybersecurity company.

As a 2018 White House Innovation Fellow, he co-wrote a study arguing that Chinese investments in emerging U.S. technologies pose a threat to national security. The paper sparked a debate about blocking China’s access to American technology and considered decisions to expand the powers of the U.S. Foreign Investment Committee, an inter-agency group that reviews deals for national security concerns.

Later in 2018, Mr. Brown assumed the position of DIU, where he helped commercial tech companies navigate the Pentagon. In April of this year, President Biden nominated Mr. Brown for the office of Secretary of State. In this position, he was expected to use his technical knowledge in making decisions about major acquisitions.

“It was a very clear signal to the technology industry, entrepreneurs, and investors that the innovation and reach that DOD has had is not fading,” said Sam Gray, executive director of the Silicon Valley Defense Group, which offers technology research.

Write to Brett Forrest at [email protected]

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