New interim DOD guidance ‘delves into the risks’ of generative AI

By Brandi Vincent

November 9, 2023

interim task force

Pentagon leadership recently issued new interim guidance to advise all U.S. defense and military components’ ongoing and forthcoming adoption of emerging and disruptive generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) technologies, sources told DefenseScoop.

In August, senior defense officials launched Task Force Lima within the Chief Digital and AI Office’s (CDAO) Algorithmic Warfare Directorate to quickly explore the potential ramifications and promising use cases for safely integrating generative AI into Defense Department activities. 

Broadly, these still-maturing capabilities and associated large language models (LLMs) generate (convincing but sometimes inaccurate) software code, images and other media from human prompts. These systems get more “intelligent” each time they’re trained with more data — and, with so many uncertainties around how they function or may evolve, they pose both unrealized opportunities and enormous risks for the U.S. military.

Among its many responsibilities , Task Force Lima is charged with informing the CDAO’s path to governance and policy-making around the department’s generative AI pursuits. This new interim guidance marks the non-permanent task force’s first output in an iterative process to fulfill that task. 

Although the standards are for DOD internal use only and will not be disseminated publilcly due to certain sensitivities, a CDAO spokesperson briefed DefenseScoop this week on some of the document’s key elements upon its first release. 

“As Gen AI becomes more accessible, the department emphasizes its potential to advance the DOD mission, highlighting its capability to enhance efficiency and productivity. However, the guidance also underscores the associated risks and the role of users, senior leaders, and commanders for responsible use,” the official explained via email. 

Under explicit direction from CDAO chief Craig Martell, the interim guidance adheres to DOD’s AI Ethical Principles and previous memorandums distributed to personnel. 

“This guidance does not override existing legal, cybersecurity, or operational policies but reinforces DOD personnel’s accountability in the acquisition and responsible use of Gen AI,” the spokesperson confirmed.

The CDAO official further spotlighted four notable points within the guidance. They are, in the spokesperson’s words:

  • Risk Assessment & Mitigation: Rather than enforcing outright bans on Gen AI tools, the DOD urges its components to adopt robust governance processes. This includes documenting the risks associated with specific Gen AI use cases, deciding and justifying the acceptable risks, and planning to mitigate unacceptable risks. 
  • Input Restrictions: Publicly available Gen AI tools should be approached with caution. Entering Classified National Security Information or Controlled Unclassified Information, such as personal or health data, is prohibited. All data, code, text, or media must be approved for public release before being used as input. 
  • Accountability: All DOD personnel are accountable for outcomes and decisions made with Gen AI’s assistance. Users are advised to verify and cross-check all outputs from such tools. 
  • Citation: For transparency, appropriate labeling is encouraged for documents created with the aid of Gen AI tools. 

The document also “delves into the risks” associated with deploying large language models and associated technologies, the spokesperson noted.  

“These models, based on enormous amounts of data, might perpetuate inaccuracies or biases inherent in the inputs. There is also the potential risk of copyright violations, inadvertent disclosure of government information, and heightened cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” they said. 

During a recent interview with DefenseScoop , Task Force Lima Mission Commander Navy Capt. M. Xavier Lugo reflected on some of those existing and unknown risks and security concerns that accompany the current state of AI — and he emphasized how DOD insiders must be particularly cautious and prudent regarding what kind of information is submitted to prompt publicly accessible models like ChatGPT and its competitors. 

“We — as in the world — are still trying to learn how vulnerable these models are for reverse engineering, right? And there’s strengths and weaknesses based on prompt engineering, on how models can be interrogated to acquire information that’s either in the model from their foundational data, or in the model from actual other prompts that have been fed into that,” he said.

“Now with that said, we — as in the task force — still see utility with publicly accessible models in the generation of like, for example, the first drafts of documents or other types of situations that are not specific to operational pieces of the DOD. Also, there are experiments happening with some of these models that are publicly accessible in order to learn more about them — so, that’s why we don’t have to necessarily restrict the the access to them. What we do is reiterate the OpSec pieces and the CUI [controlled unclassified information] pieces of law that we already have in policy on how we share information in the open,” Lugo explained.

The military services are encouraged to publish their own more restrictive guidance that goes beyond the interim document.

“Further detailed guidance is forthcoming from Task Force Lima,” the CDAO spokesperson told DefenseScoop.

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  • Task Forces and Advisory Committees
  • University Governance

Task forces are temporary ad hoc committees formed to address specific policy issues. Advisory committees are formed to provide advice or feedback to administrators. They are usually not temporary committees.

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The UCC convened and staffed this task force in Spring 2023. The Task Force will:

  • Familiarize itself with the Teaching Effectiveness Standards and Evaluation (TESE) Guidelines , timelines and department requirements
  • Review department TESE drafts and provide feedback to departments/deans at the spring (1) draft and (2) revision stage and (3) after piloting, review, and revision of the final standards the following year (see Task Force Charge for timeline)
  • Formulate a recommendation whether the group should persist as a teaching subcommittee of FAC; submit to FAC for consideration in Fall 2025, at the conclusion of its task. If a positive recommendation is made and supported by FAC, FAC will make a proposal to the UCC.

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The UCC convened and staffed this task force in March-April 2023. The Task Force will:

  • assist with legally mandated language changes to SCU's Title IX policy.
  • assist with a comprehensive review of the Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct policy.
  • continue development of a model for alternative resolution practices addressing allegations of harassment and discrimination at SCU.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, the University Coordinating Committee considered a variety of potential changes to the UPC Charter and other governance documents.  The UCC convened this task force to draft amendments to the SCU Governance Documents, based on suggested changes from various sources, and to  suggest wording changes and additions to the UPC Charter and other governance documents.

This task force is charged with the duty of finding ways to promote justice on campus. It will seek broad input and representation from various stakeholders in the Santa Clara University community in an effort to articulate the University’s values around promoting labor justice .

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This advisory committee advises the Provost’s Office on the maintenance of academic freedom and integrity and the autonomy of the University in decisions related to expenditures of this gift; the committee will report at least annually to the Faculty Senate Council, Staff Senate, and Associated Student Government for the duration of the gift.

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The Task Force submitted its report to the Faculty Affairs Committee and University Coordinating Committee in March 2023. The Task Force reviewed the existing section in light of other recent statements on the University’s history (e.g., the 2020 Report of the Ohlone History Working Group, and the 2022 Presidential Inauguration program) and proposed recommendations to the Faculty Affairs Committee .

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The goal of the task force was to examine service expectations, how they are compensated, and how they should be valued in evaluation, rank, tenure, and promotion for all ranks, but especially for associate professors petitioning for full. A corollary concern was to review service expectations for major University service to be sure that the rewards for faculty and staff were aligned.

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This task force evaluated current collaborative governance involvement in university finances, explored other peer universities' processes, and suggested recommendations to improve the SCU collaborative governance charter. The TF submitted its final report to the UCC on June 3, 2022.

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The task force investigated best practices used at SCU and comparable universities for alternative resolution approaches like mediation, restorative justice, transformative practices, etc., as a tool for addressing allegations of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination based on protected class status. The Task Force recommended program models for alternative resolution to be developed at SCU reporting to the Faculty Affairs Committee, the Staff Affairs Committee, the Student Affairs Committee, the University Coordinating Committee, and the Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator.  The Task Force recommended that the UCC reconvene this task force (or a similar one) in Fall 2021 to continue developing a model proposal that ensures that the task force is being thoughtful and intentional about mitigating any risks, ensuring that the alternative resolution process is properly executed and community support is secured.

This task force investigated and proposed solutions to four areas of the university’s collaborative governance consultation and communication systems: (1) an online policy/proposal tracking mechanism; (2) additional methods beyond Senate presentations for consultation during policy development; (3) training tools for committee and community members on governance processes; and (4) facilitating better communication about governance processes with the broader university community.

The UCC obtained approval from Acting Co-Provosts Ed Ryan and Kate Morris and Acting President Kloppenberg to proceed with the development of a beta version of the Governance Tracker (i.e., the online policy/proposal tracking mechanism). The UCC in collaboration with the university’s web development team will begin development of the Governance Tracker in Summer 2021.

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This planning group developed principles to guide decisions about vaccination for employees and students in anticipation of a return to campus in Fall 2021. The group’s recommendation defined the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all SCU employees in accordance with local, state and federal requirements and in anticipation of a return to campus. The recommended policy provided exemptions for medical and religious reasons as defined under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Vaccine Planning Group submitted its recommendation to the Faculty Affairs and Staff Affairs committees, Acting President Kloppenberg, and Acting Co-Provost Morris and Ryan in May 2021.

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This task force completed its charge in June 2021. The task was divided into a scholarship committee that reviewed department statements articulating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on scholarship in their discipline, and a teaching committee that reviewed department statements regarding how teaching performance would be evaluated during online quarters. Each committee provided feedback on the statements that identified best practices that emerged from their review, including attention to impacts on research practice and publication and on the professional activity of lecturers, and movement towards a more robust framework for teaching evaluation that goes beyond the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) instrument. They looked for evidence that the statements were developed in consultation with all academic year faculty who will be evaluated by the standards.  

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The task force investigated best practices at comparable universities for remedying the particular obstacles faced by caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. They recommended policies and practices to support faculty and staff caregivers at the university.  The UCC will forward the final report on best practices to the Faculty Affairs Committee, the FAC Subcommittee on Lecturers and Adjuncts, and the Staff Affairs Committee to frame the development of future policy recommendations .

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This task force reviewed Santa Clara’s gift acceptance guidelines in relation to the mission, vision, and values of the University, researched best practices in gift acceptance in higher education, and recommended improvements in the University’s gift acceptance guidelines. The President approved six of the eight recommendations of the Task Force, with implementation effective  immediately.

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The Task Force investigated best practices for Lecturers (Senior Lecturers, Renewable-Term Lecturers, and Academic Year Adjunct Lecturers) at other universities in the areas of hiring protocols, job stability, service expectations, respect, and resources. The Task Force submitted a preliminary report which responded to the charge by recommending models to the Faculty Affairs Committee. In view of the fact that Santa Clara University’s policies and practices regarding lecturers are changing rapidly and that some key documents related to the charge were unavailable at the time the preliminary report was completed (e.g., the University’s final report on Campus Climate was released fall 2018), the Task Force will release an update to this report covering areas of their charge which remained unfinished. Task Force members will make themselves available to the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC), Faculty Senate Committee on Lecturers and Adjuncts (COLA), and Faculty Senate Council (FSC) for consultation and discussion as needed.

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The task force completed a revision and interim implementation plan of Policy 311 that created a unified policy addressing sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination and harassment in compliance with federal and state laws. The Task Force received feedback on the interim policy from Staff Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs, President’s Cabinet, General Counsel, and campus community members. On August 14, 2020, the University announced the implementation of the Interim Policy on Nondiscrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct . On March 10, 2021, the Task Force presented Resolution: FSC2021.03.10.1R to the Faculty Senate Council (FSC) for approval to call upon the full Faculty Senate to vote on the Interim Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct to replace the current wording of Appendix F of the Faculty Handbook. The FSC voted in favor of the resolution by a vote of 25-0-5 (Y-N-A). On April 7, 2021, the full Faculty Senate approved the replacement of Appendix F of the Faculty Handbook with the Interim Policy on Discrimination, Harrassment and Sexual Misconduct by a vote of 113-4-5 (Y-N-A). Final approval from the Board of Trustees is pending. The vote to approve is anticipated to occur at the October 2021 Board meeting.

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In 2018, this Task Force was formed to continue the work of a previous task force on the  Adjudication of Alleged Academic Integrity Violations . This newly formed Task Force was charged with 1) developing a broad statement of University standards of academic integrity, 2) defining protocols for reporting undergraduate academic integrity violations and adjudicating them. The Task Force requested a modification to its charge in March 2019. The UCC recommended that the Task Force continue with its original charge. In June 2020, the Task Force's final report recommended that the UCC create a third Academic Integrity Task Force for the 2020-21 academic year, and that the UCC take into consideration the issues raised in the Task Force’s March request to modify its charge.

This Task Force proposed a Housing Assistance Program benefit for Santa Clara University staff.

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The Task Force reviewed rank and tenure procedures at other institutions and made best practice recommendations to improve the rank and tenure system. The Faculty Affairs Committee approved some recommendations from the task force and will continue the finalization of other recommendations in the next academic year.

The task force made recommendations to create a well-designed faculty retirement support plan with the following components: money, education, and retiree connections.

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In Spring quarter 2018, the Project Manager and Director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion engaged with the Planning Action Council (PAC) to discuss and prioritize the Task Force recommendations. The Project Manager compiled the feedback from the discussions with PAC to share with the University President. In Fall 2018, two campus-wide fora were held as part of the comprehensive Campus Climate Study. 

The Task Force was charged with updating the University's protocols for adjudication, appeal, and sanctions for allegations of violations of academic integrity. The Task Force submitted a report and recommendations. Due to concerns raised by the faculty community, however, the recommendations were not implemented. 

Task Force Report 

Rationale for non-implentation

The Task Force on Providing Regular Feedback to Academic Administrators recommended that Santa Clara University adopt an annual survey for faculty to provide regular, formative feedback to senior academic administrators (Deans and Provost). The following recommendations were submitted by the Task Force:

  • An administrator survey should be administered in the spring focusing on the following areas: Communication;  eadership in curriculum and teaching; Leadership in scholarship; Alignment with mission and institutional culture; and Overall management and leadership.
  • All full-time faculty should provide feedback to their individual Dean each year.
  • A random sample of full-time faculty (approximately one-third of the faculty) should fill out a survey about the Provost each year.
  • Results of the surveys should be collated and distributed by an office on campus and given to administrators and their supervisors over the summer.

The recommendations were approved by the Provost and implemented in the following years.

The Child Care Task Force, appointed by the Vice President for Finance and Administration, studied Santa Clara’s Kids on Campus program and comparable programs. The Task Force recommended that the University:

  • continue to offer on-campus child care
  • enhance the physical structure for the child care center
  • stabilize the financial structure for on-campus child care
  • develop a multi-year plan for tuition rates
  • agree not to raise the tuition of KOC more than 5% in any given year.

The recommendations were submitted to the Vice President for Finance and Administration and implemented in the following years.

Additional Dependent Care Reports

The Task Force on Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) developed an instrument to replace the instrument that had been in place at SCU for three decades. The Task Force reviewed the literature, received campus-wide feedback from faculty across the University on three potential models, completed pilot studies, and conducted a poll of the faculty. A new SET instrument was recommended by the Task Force and the Faculty Affairs Committee. The recommendations were approved by the Provost in October 2014 and subsequently adopted by all Schools and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The full set of materials and appendices produced by the Task Force on Student Evaluation of Teaching can be found  here .

The Task Force on Evaluation of Teaching was charged with the development of a flexible set of guidelines for collecting and analyzing evidence of a faculty member’s contributions to teaching and learning. The Task Force recommended the following:

  • Evaluation of teaching should be based on multiple sources of evidence.
  • Multiple sources of evidence should include at least student evaluations and peer evaluations.
  • Peer evaluations should include both classroom observations and teaching materials.
  • The University should convene an additional task force focused explicitly on improving the Student Evaluation of Teaching instrument.
  • Other recommendations included: providing transparent and timely evaluation criteria and processes; engaging in the development of evaluation practices at the departmental level, developing a shared set of norms for exemplary, excellent, and unsatisfactory teaching; and experimenting with diverse small-scale pilot programs for evaluating teaching.

The recommendations were approved by the Provost.

The full set of materials and appendices produced by the Task Force on Evaluation of Teaching can be found  here .

The Task Force on Communication and Collaboration Tools was formed to identify campus needs for communication and collaboration services, identify categories of tools to meet those needs, and evaluate and recommend specific tools and vendors within each category. The Task Force assessed the needs of the community, reviewed several products, consulted widely, and unanimously recommended that the University adopt Google Apps for Education as its communication and collaboration platform. The recommendation was approved by the Provost and President, and the tool was launched the following year.

The Executive Task Force on Governance conducted focus groups, surveys, and conversations, and subsequently developed recommendations to improve the governance process. Recommendations focused on the following areas: UPCs, Communications flow, Successful committees, UCC, Committee appointments, Responses and appeals, Role of Faculty Senate, Relations with Trustees, Orientation, and Staffing support.

The recommendations were revised by the UCC in 2011-2012. Following a vote of the faculty senate, thirty-two revised recommendations were approved by the UCC and the President on June 19, 2012.

Approved Recommendations

The Task Force on Classrooms and Class Scheduling studied Santa Clara’s classroom availability and scheduling practices. The Task Force recommended the following:

  • Some specialized teaching spaces should be made available for general use after they have been assigned for specialized use.
  • To align with national practice the University’s master plan should include a commitment to maintaining a classroom utilization rate of 65 –70% during the typical class week.
  • Plans for new construction and/or for changing the size of the graduate and/or undergraduate student body should take into consideration the availability of teaching space and the need to maintain appropriate flexibility to meet student and faculty needs.
  • Some teaching spaces should be improved or remodeled to better support teaching and learning.
  • The University’s Guidelines for Class Scheduling should be revised to support a broader distribution of classes throughout the day.
  • The length of each Tuesday/Thursday (TR) class should be decreased by ten minutes to create an eighth class period on TR.
  • Two-day per week scheduling options should be expanded by adding a few MF and WF options after 3:00.
  • A few more classes that meet once per week on Fridays should be offered.
  • A clear method should be established for communicating classroom problems and needs to the Registrar, Media Services, Facilities, and/or Deans, along with a clear strategy for responding rapidly to identified needs.
  • Chairs and administrative assistants should communicate to faculty the range of classroom options using a scheduling template listing available times, equipment, furniture, and room options.

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Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States

Nearly 20 years have elapsed since the terrorist attacks of September 11. While U.S. counterterrorism policy has succeeded during that time in preventing attacks on the homeland, the threat posed by violent extremism has grown and evolved such that quashing it requires an entirely new approach. The willingness of global allies—including partners in the Middle East—to work with the U.S. to stem violent extremism means that, for the first time, a truly comprehensive, multilateral approach is in view.

Congress charged the United States Institute of Peace, an independent, bipartisan leader in reducing and preventing conflict, with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. The bipartisan initiative recommended a new approach for U.S. policy that harnesses existing U.S. programs and international partnerships to target the underlying causes of extremism and limit the ability of extremist groups to exploit fragile states.

The Task Force was led by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and former Representative Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission. The Task Force included thirteen leading former policymakers, legislators and other experts whose unique experience and insights will shape the Task Force’s policy recommendations.

Final Report

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Preventing Extremism in Fragile States: A New Approach

Despite our success protecting America’s homeland, extremism is spreading. Since 9/11, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide per year has increased fivefold. As long as this continues, the United States will remain vulnerable to terrorism while extremism contributes to chaos, conflict, and coercion that drains U.S. resources, weakens our allies, and provides openings for our competitors.

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Three recommendations for a new approach to preventing extremism in fragile states

Task force events, a new approach to preventing extremism in fragile states.

On April 23rd, members of the Task Force and more experts joined USIP for a discussion the challenge of supporting fragile states to build resiliency, sustain progress and prevent future threats and instability.

Podcasts and a webcast of the full event are available here .

Read the event coverage

February 26, 2019 Report Release Press Conference

Participants included:

  • Ambassador Paula Dobriansky , Senior Fellow for the Future of Diplomacy Project, Harvard University; former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
  • Ambassador Karl Eikenberry , Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative, Stanford University; former U. S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
  • Mr. Farooq Kathwari , CEO and President, Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.
  • The Honorable Nancy Lindborg , President, United States Institute of Peace
  • The Honorable Stephen Hadley , Chair of the Board of Directors, United States Institute of Peace; former U.S. National Security Advisor
  • Governor Thomas Kean , co-chair, former Governor of New Jersey, former 9/11 Commission Chair
  • Representaitve Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Ambassador Paula Dobriansky; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; Mr. Farooq Kathwari; The Honorable Nancy Lindborg; The Honorable Stephen Hadley; Governor Thomas Kean (co-chair); Representaitve Eliot Engel (D-NY); Senator Chris Coons (D-DE); Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX); Senator Lindsey Graham (R-DC)

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We Need a New Approach to Prevent Violent Extremism

Our principal recommendation is both simple and daunting: we need a high-level political commitment to prevention. Our goal should not be to topple governments or install new ones, but to work with local actors to strengthen vulnerable states and societies so that they can better defend themselves. 

A police officer mans a checkpoint in Raqqa, Syria, on June 13, 2018. Despite the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS, the group remains a potent threat. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

The Complex Threat of Extremism—And a Pathway to Quashing it for Good

The recent territorial victories against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are a significant achievement. However, terrorist groups like ISIS are not traditional enemies, and their strength cannot be assessed on traditional metrics. Thousands of fighters remain, and ISIS is intent on regrouping.

Raqqa’s main cemetery, after Islamic State members desecrated the graveyard, in Syria, June 13, 2018. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

Down But Not Out: Extremists’ Evolving Strategy

The U.S. State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism recently released its annual report on terrorism. The report concludes that despite the success of efforts to dismantle ISIS, “the terrorist landscape grew more complex.” Extremist groups such as ISIS, al-Qaida, and their affiliates are proving resilient and adjusting to heightened counterterrorism pressure with new attempts to destabilize, seize, and govern territory in fragile states. 

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Seventeen years ago today, we experienced the gravest attack on our nation since World War II. Everything we thought we knew about protecting the safety of American citizens and security of our shores changed overnight. Americans came face-to-face with an unfamiliar enemy: violent extremists.

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Fragile States Fail Their Citizens and Threaten Global Security

Under congressional mandate, USIP has convened the bipartisan Task Force for Extremism in Fragile States to design a comprehensive new strategy for addressing the underlying causes of violent extremism in fragile states. But what is a fragile state? And how does state fragility in the Middle East, Horn of Africa and the Sahel threaten American interests? In this excerpt from the Task Force’s forthcoming report, we dive into the conditions of fragility and how they seed the ground for extremism to take root.

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How Extremists Exploit Fragile States

Extremists have attempted to achieve their ideological objectives in different ways. Islamist militants in Algeria and Egypt waged bloody but unsuccessful insurgencies during the 1990s to overthrow those countries' regimes. Osama bin Laden blamed their failure on Western support for secular Middle Eastern states. He  created al-Qaida  to attack the United States and force it to withdraw from the region.

Interim Report

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Beyond the Homeland: Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States

Today, on the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Task Force is releasing its first report, which warns that the United States urgently needs a new approach to stem the spread of violent extremism and previews a comprehensive preventative strategy that focuses on strengthening resilience against extremism in fragile states.

Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States one pager cover

Key Takeaways from the Interim Report

Since the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, extremist groups have expanded in fragile states across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Against this backdrop, the congressionally mandated, bipartisan Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States has released a report that calls for a new strategy to mitigate the conditions that enable extremist groups to take root, spread, and thrive in fragile states. 

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Nancy Lindborg on Addressing Extremism in Fragile States

Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks, Nancy Lindborg details the findings of an interim report from the congressionally mandated Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Convened by USIP, the Task Force will devise a comprehensive new strategy for addressing the underlying causes of extremism in fragile states, says Lindborg, a member of the Task Force.

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Foreign Podicy: Extremism and Fragile States

Today, on the 17th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in America's history, U.S. Institute for Peace has released a new report on "protecting America from extremism in fragile states." To discuss its analysis and recommendations, FDD president and  Foreign Podicy  host  Clifford D. May  is joined by  Stephen J. Hadley , former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, and now the chair of the U.S. Institute for Peace—a congressionally founded and funded policy institute;  Nancy Lindborg , president of USIP; and  Reuel Marc Gerecht , a senior fellow at FDD and a former Middle East specialist in the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

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The Global Fragility Act: A New U.S. Approach

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

By: USIP Staff

After several years of efforts by a bipartisan group of members of Congress and outside groups, Congress last month took legislative aim at a threat behind many of the world’s most pressing problems: fragile states. On December 20, as part of an appropriations package, President Donald Trump signed into law the Global Fragility Act, marking a new—if largely unnoticed— U.S. approach to conflict-prone states that can be vectors of violent extremism, uncontrolled migration, and extreme poverty.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience ;  Violent Extremism

From How to Who: Reforming the Civilian Workforce for Prevention

From How to Who: Reforming the Civilian Workforce for Prevention

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

By: Blaise Misztal;  Eric Brown

It seems obvious that a U.S. foreign service or development officer would need a unique set of skills for dealing with the varied challenges they face in fragile countries. Delivering humanitarian assistance effectively in the wake of a natural disaster requires a mentality and approach that is different from advising a government in a fragile state facing mass unrest. But, the civilian workforce of the U.S government isn’t always equipped to perform the roles that policymakers require of them. Similarly, preventing conflict or extremism in countries where the United States has diplomatic missions requires a different way of operating—it may even require a different workforce altogether.

Fragility & Resilience

Why Security Sector Governance Matters in Fragile States

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

By: Nathaniel Allen;  Rachel Kleinfeld

Editor’s Note: Congress charged the U.S. Institute of Peace with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Following the public launch of the Task Force’s final report, four groups of experts came together to discuss how to implement the report’s recommendations. This four-part series will discuss the findings from these strategy sessions. Part two summarizes expert discussion on the report’s recommendations on security cooperation and assistance and practical steps that could be taken to better align security cooperation and assistance with prevention.

How Civil Society Can Help Prevent Violence and Extremism

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

By: Leanne Erdberg Steadman ;  Bridget Moix

Editor’s Note: Congress charged the U.S. Institute of Peace with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Following the public launch of the Task Force’s final report, four groups of experts came together to discuss how to implement the report’s recommendations. This four-part series will discuss the findings from these strategy sessions. Part one summarizes expert discussion on how civil society actors are preventing violent extremism and building resilience in their communities and practical ways the U.S. and other international actors can more effectively interact with civil society to bolster its role in prevention.

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Peace Processes

Gordon Peake on COP28 and Climate Financing

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As COP28 continues, it’s estimated that the world needs to invest $5.9 trillion to stave off climate change. “The big question now is … who’s going to pay for all this,” says USIP’s Gordon Peake, adding that “we also need to tamp down the use of fossil fuels” to prevent the bill for growing even more.

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Global Policy

Interpreting China’s Kissinger Nostalgia

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Teaching Peace: Nelson Mandela’s Story in a World of Conflicts

Teaching Peace: Nelson Mandela’s Story in a World of Conflicts

Thursday, November 30, 2023

By: Kristen Embry;   James Rupert

A world reeling from the brutal horrors of our current wars will next week mark (or perhaps overlook) the 10th anniversary of the death of a peacemaking icon: South Africa’s liberation leader and former president, Nelson Mandela. Amid continued or escalated wars — Israel-Gaza, Ukraine-Russia, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and others — USIP this month hosted Georgia’s senator, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, in a discussion of Mandela’s legacy and immediate relevance. Another Georgian, Decatur High School history teacher Kristen Embry, introduced Warnock. She spoke about Mandela and her own mission of teaching history and peacebuilding to American students in the 2020s.

Education & Training ;  Youth

Condo Task Force Facing Deadline May Punt To State Auditor Instead - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Condo Task Force Facing Deadline May Punt To State Auditor Instead

The task force report is due at the end of this month, but a draft went nowhere. The auditor could look into critical issues affecting as many as 1 in 4 residents.

A condominium task force established to identify issues related to condo associations and the systems in place to resolve disputes with unit owners is supposed to submit an interim report of its findings and recommendations by the end of this month. 

But instead of reporting on the issues it has identified so far, the Condominium Property Regime Task Force is considering a time-honored way to avoid saying much for now: It’s planning to ask the Legislature to direct the Hawaii State Auditor to conduct a study of condo issues.

That was the main result of a meeting held Thursday to consider a proposed interim report and bill amending condo mediation procedures submitted by the task force’s chair,  Philip Nerney , a condo lawyer who typically represents condo associations. 

Drafted and submitted without input from other working group members, Nerney’s mediation proposal went nowhere.

Top, Kakaako skyline with foreground Nuuanu condominiums.

Instead, with the late December deadline for an interim report looming, Sen. Carol Fukunaga suggested requesting a study by the Hawaii State Auditor. Such a study among other things could examine what other states do to resolve condo disputes and compare that to Hawaii, said Fukunaga, a task force member.

Rep. Sean Quinlan, also a member, described the study as a wise first step for a panel that has two years to complete its work.

“It’s really tough because there are a lot of people who have genuinely been targeted for retaliation by their condominium associations,” Quinlan said. “But we have to be very, very careful when crafting solutions because it’s going to have huge implications for property ownership.”

The task force represents a potentially important tool for helping lawmakers craft new legal frameworks for governing condominium associations. Although  state law  outlines broad policies for setting up condominium property regimes, the regimes themselves are private, self-governing entities, essentially creatures of private contracts between unit owners and their condominium associations. 

The task force’s work could bring change touching much of Hawaii’s population. As of 2021, there were 1,540 condominium associations consisting of six or more units registered in Hawaii, representing over 157,000 units, according to the  Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Real Estate Commission . Industry  experts have estimated  these associations govern some 360,000 people – or about 1 in 4 Hawaii residents. 

The associations are essentially private governments with elected boards and the ability to impose fees and penalties on residents but often without accountability or media scrutiny. The issue, Quinlan said, is how to protect these residents from abusive or recalcitrant boards without restricting private rights.

“How do we craft a law that promotes good behavior without being too prescriptive?” he said.

Lawmaker: Task Force Can Work In Parallel With Auditor

Quinlan said he didn’t see calling for an audit as stalling.

“As long as we keep working hard in parallel with what we ask the auditor to do, it’s not going to stop the task force from doing its own work,” he said.

One key will be the audit’s scope, said Lila Mower, a longtime advocate for condo owners who serves on the task force. When testifying for establishment of the task force, Mower recommended the panel investigate what she said were issues critical to owners. 

These, she said, included examining the feasibility of creating a condo ombudsman, investigating the extent to which associations make key governing documents available to owners and assessing the success or failure of subsidized mediation conducted under the state condo law. The audit should be scoped to explore these issues, she said.

Still, the last item might go nowhere if the task force’s chair has much say. While the usefulness of mediation is a contested issue between owner advocates like Mower and condo associations and their lawyers, the chair indicated his mind is made up regardless of what an audit might find.

“Mediation is good,” he said. “I will never be convinced otherwise.”

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DOD Announces Establishment of Generative AI Task Force

Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the establishment of a generative artificial intelligence (AI) task force, an initiative that reflects the DoD's commitment to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence in a responsible and strategic manner.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks directed the organization of Task Force Lima; it will play a pivotal role in analyzing and integrating generative AI tools, such as large language models (LLMs), across the DoD.

"The establishment of Task Force Lima underlines the Department of Defense's unwavering commitment to leading the charge in AI innovation," Hicks said. "As we navigate the transformative power of generative AI, our focus remains steadfast on ensuring national security, minimizing risks, and responsibly integrating these technologies. The future of defense is not just about adopting cutting-edge technologies, but doing so with foresight, responsibility, and a deep understanding of the broader implications for our nation."

Led by the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO), Task Force Lima will assess, synchronize, and employ generative AI capabilities across the DoD, ensuring the Department remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies while safeguarding national security. 

"The DoD has an imperative to responsibly pursue the adoption of generative AI models while identifying proper protective measures and mitigating national security risks that may result from issues such as poorly managed training data," said Dr. Craig Martell, the DoD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer. "We must also consider the extent to which our adversaries will employ this technology and seek to disrupt our own use of AI-based solutions."

Leveraging partnerships across the Department, Intelligence Community and other government agencies, the task force will help minimize risk and redundancy while pursuing generative AI initiatives across the Department. 

Artificial intelligence has emerged as a transformative technology with the potential to revolutionize various sectors, including defense. By leveraging generative AI models, which can use vast datasets to train algorithms and generate products efficiently, the Department aims to enhance its operations in areas such as warfighting, business affairs, health, readiness, and policy.

"The adoption of artificial intelligence in defense is not solely about innovative technology but also about enhancing national security," said U.S. Navy Capt. M. Xavier Lugo, Task Force Lima mission commander and member of the CDAO's Algorithmic Warfare Directorate. "The DoD recognizes the potential of generative AI to significantly improve intelligence, operational planning, and administrative and business processes. However, responsible implementation is key to managing associated risks effectively."

The CDAO became operational in June 2022 and is dedicated to integrating and optimizing artificial intelligence capabilities across the DoD. The office is responsible for accelerating the DoD's adoption of data, analytics, and AI, enabling the Department's digital infrastructure and policy adoption to deliver scalable AI-driven solutions for enterprise and joint use cases, safeguarding the nation against current and emerging threats.

For more information about Task Force Lima, please visit the CDAO website at You can also connect with the CDAO on LinkedIn (@ DoD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office) and Twitter (@dodcdao). Additional updates and news can be found on the CDAO Unit Page on DVIDS.

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April 12, 2023

Atlantic Council Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption interim report  

By Eric Lofgren*, Whitney M. McNamara, and Peter Modigliani

Co-chairs: The Hon. Mark T. Esper, PhD, &   The Hon. Deborah Lee James

Commission director: stephen rodriguez  , program director: clementine g. starling, commission staff: mark j. massa, delharty m. manson ii, and jacob mezey  , commission on defense innovation adoption: interim report launch.

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James discuss a new report on the challenges the United States faces in maintaining its technological and military advantage over its adversaries and what adaptations Congress, the Pentagon, and the defense sector should make to increase the pace of innovation adoption.

interim task force


  • The Hon. Mark T. Esper, PhD , Board Director , Atlantic Council; 27th Secretary of Defense; Co-Chair , Atlantic Council Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption
  • The Hon. Deborah Lee James , Board Director , Atlantic Council; 23rd Secretary of the Air Force; Co-Chair , Atlantic Council Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption
  • Ambassador Barbara Barrett , Board Director , Atlantic Council; 25th Secretary of the Air Force
  • General James E. Cartwright, USMC (ret.) , Board Director , Atlantic Council; 8th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Frank A. Finelli , Managing Director , The Carlyle Group
  • The Hon. Michèle Flournoy , Co-founder and Managing Partner , WestExec Advisors; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy , US Department of Defense
  • Scott Frederick , Managing Partner , Sands Capital
  • The Hon. James “Hondo” Geurts , Distinguished Fellow , Business Executives for National Security; Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development , and Acquisition , US Department of Defense
  • Peter Levine , Senior Research Fellow , Institute for Defense Analyses; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness , US Department of Defense
  • The Hon. Ellen M. Lord , Former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment , US Department of Defense
  • Major General Arnold L. Punaro, USMC (ret.) , CEO , The Punaro Group; Member , Advisory Council , Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security , Atlantic Council
  • Nick Sinai , Senior Advisor , Insight Partners; Senior Fellow , Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy , Harvard Kennedy School
  • Josh Wolfe , Co-founder and Managing Partner , Lux Capital
  • The Hon. Robert O. Work , Senior Counselor for Defense and Distinguished Senior Fellow for Defense and National Security , Center for a New American Security; 32nd US Deputy Secretary of Defense

Industry commissioners

  • Steven Escaravage , Executive Vice President and AI Lead , Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Wendy R. Anderson , Senior Vice President , Palantir Technologies
  • Prashant Bhuyan , Founder and CEO , Accrete AI
  • Mark Brunner , President, Primer Federal , Primer AI
  • Colin Carroll , Director of Government Relations , Applied Intuition
  • Adam Hammer , Counselor , Schmidt Futures
  • Chris Lynch , CEO , Rebellion Defense
  • Mara Motherway , Senior Vice President , Peraton
  • Michael Niggel , CEO , ACT1 Federal
  • Doug Philippone , Co-founder , Snowpoint Ventures

Table of contents


  • Introduce a new capability portfolio model
  • Consolidate program elements
  • Reset reprogramming authorities
  • Modernize DoD to align with the 21st century industrial base
  • Strengthen alignment of capital markets to defense outcomes
  • Incentivize tech companies to do business with DoD
  • Modernize budget documents
  • Establish bridge fund for successfully demonstrated technologies
  • Scale the Space Development Agency model
  • Modernize DoD’s requirements system

Conclusions and next steps


  • Acknowledgements

List of acronyms

The US Department of Defense (DoD) needs to accelerate the adoption of cutting-edge technology from the leading edge of the commercial and defense sectors. Doing so will enable the Pentagon to deliver high-impact operational solutions to the Warfighter in a much timelier manner. That is why we are co-chairing the Atlantic Council ’s Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption , which has released this interim report. 

In our time serving in the Defense Department, we have found that the United States does not have an innovation problem, but rather an innovation adoption problem. That is to say, our Nation leads in many emerging technologies relevant to defense and security—from artificial intelligence and directed energy to quantum information technology and beyond. But the DoD struggles to identify, adopt, integrate, and field these technologies into military applications. 

The persistence of this challenge is not for lack of trying. The Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office has cut through bureaucratic constraints to accelerate even the most complicated major acquisitions. The Defense Innovation Unit stands out for expanding the range of firms involved in innovation for national security purposes. Army Futures Command has accelerated modernization in ground forces through its cross-functional team model. The new Office of Strategic Capital has a promising new approach to engaging capital markets in support of national security goals. 

But the growing national security challenges facing our country and the threat they pose to the rules-based international order require actionable reform across the DoD. We and a group of distinguished Commissioners, with decades of service between us in government, the private sector, and capital markets, believe that time is running out to do so. The United States faces simultaneous competition with two nuclear-armed, autocratic great-power rivals. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and China’s revanchism not only spur urgent geopolitical considerations, but also cast into sharp relief the US industrial base’s ability to produce and field innovative technologies at scale. 

To address the DoD’s innovation adoption challenge in light of the urgency of the geopolitical environment we face, this interim report advances ten policy recommendations for Congress and the Pentagon, focusing on the three key areas of reforming acquisition; overcoming barriers to innovation; and revising specific Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution structures. 

To that end, the DoD should adapt the way it conducts its acquisition programs to provide additional flexibility in the year of execution, and Congress can authorize that flexibility. We recommend that five DoD program executive offices be empowered to operate in a portfolio model so that they can more easily shift funding among possible products that meet their mission needs. Congress should appropriate money to DoD with fewer but larger discrete budget line items and reset reprogramming authorities so that acquisition professionals have greater flexibility. 

To better leverage innovation in the commercial sector, Congress should restore at least the traditional ratio of procurement funding to other defense spending, and the DoD should more intentionally engage a much broader innovation base. Allocating a higher percentage of the DoD’s budget to procurement will clearly signal a larger market to nontraditional defense firms.  

Additionally, the deputy secretary of defense, with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as a direct report, should take a leadership role in aligning and harnessing stakeholders within the Pentagon and the existing defense industrial base for the twenty-first century. The DIU should be resourced and empowered to broaden the defense ecosystem by robustly engaging start-ups, nontraditional vendors, and capital market players. 

The DoD must develop approaches to more rapidly validate its needs for commercial capabilities, rather than waiting years after identifying a key capability to write a requirement and submit a budget request. The DoD should both reform the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) to operate more swiftly and develop a military need validation system outside of JCIDS for mature commercial capabilities. Congress and the DoD should expand both eligibility for, and the award size of, Small Business Innovation Research grants. To provide additional mechanisms for rapidly matching key capabilities with funding, they should also provide funds to procure capabilities successfully demonstrated in exercises. 

As the 2022 National Security Strategy states, we are living through a “decisive decade,” a sentiment shared by the previous administration as well. Congress and the DoD must seize this opportunity to enact near-term changes that will help get our service members the capabilities they need to defend our country and its interests.

interim task force

The Hon. Mark T. Esper, PhD

27th US Secretary of Defense

interim task force

The Hon. Deborah Lee James

23rd US Secretary of the Air Force

* Eric Lofgren served as a project author until February 2023, when he transitioned to a position in government service. All of his contributions were made before his transition to that role.

interim task force

The  Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security  works to develop sustainable, nonpartisan strategies to address the most important security challenges facing the United States and the world.

Forward Defense

Forward Defense , housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.

Mission statement

Accelerate the DoD’s ability to adopt cutting-edge technology from commercial and defense sectors and deliver high-impact operational solutions to the Warfighters.

Enterprise challenges

The DoD faces the following enterprise challenges in adopting defense innovations:

1. Outdated R&D model

The DoD’s requirements and acquisition processes were designed for a time when the DoD was the largest funder of global research and development (R&D) . By 2020, however, the federal government’s share of national R&D had fallen below 20 percent, and yet its processes have not adapted to this new leader-to-follower reality. Today, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), national and service laboratories, and universities continue to innovate, many of the most critical technologies are driven by the commercial sector. The DoD struggles to adopt commercial technology at a relevant speed. Innovations from noncommercial R&D organizations are infrequently tied to a commercialization and adoption pipeline. Traditional prime contractors orient their independent R&D (IRAD) toward near-term defense requirements that are prescriptive relative to solutions rather than broadly defining warfighter gaps that allow applications of advanced technologies. As a result, the DoD is unable to effectively apply leading technologies to its weapon systems.

2. Long timelines and inflexible execution

Too often, the DoD delivers systems to meet requirements defined more than a decade earlier. It is difficult to insert new technology to effectively respond to dynamic adversary threats, technological opportunities, advances in warfighting concepts, or macroeconomic and supply-chain disruptions, especially within fiscal years. Hardware-centric models ineffectively integrate rapid software updates.

3. Fewer companies providing defense solutions

The DoD’s industrial base has shrunk by 40 percent over the past decade, due to both consolidation and exit. This decline stems from multiple causes, including a pivot to fewer more-complex major systems, long timelines, complex regulations, and the high compliance cost of doing business with the DoD. Many start-up, commercial, and international businesses are unable or unwilling to enter the DoD ecosystem. As a result, reduced competitive pressure has increased costs and decreased adoption of innovation.

4. Valleys of death

The DoD spends billions annually on research and prototypes, yet only a small percentage transitions to production contracts with revenue to sustain operations and scale output. Consequently, one must question why the DoD continues to fund so many defense research organizations when most technology innovation comes from the commercial sector. Long timelines for contracts and funding, program constraints, and a disconnected ecosystem are among the transition challenges for companies that have developed viable products or services.

5. Hamstrung workforce

The DoD acquisition workforce is subject to a bureaucratic culture of excessive compliance and oversight, a challenging environment for innovation. Creative problem-solving and measured risk-taking are not often rewarded, and too few individuals with an industry background agree to take senior leadership roles at the DoD.

6. Program-centric acquisition

Defining requirements, securing budgets, and acquiring capabilities are done for hundreds of individual programs. The DoD invests a significant percentage of its funds in complex major systems for which prime contractors offer closed, propriety solutions. This impedes interoperability and responsiveness to changes in operations, threats, and technologies. Open-system architectures with well-defined interface control documents are rarely adopted, which constrains the ability to insert innovative technology.

7. Cumbersome reporting from DoD to Congress

Budget justification documents run dozens of volumes and tens of thousands of pages. Document format, detail, and supporting information is inconsistent among military services and agencies. This impedes Congress’s ability to understand program objectives in a timely manner. In turn, Congress does not trust that delegated decisions will consistently result in more rapid technology adoption.

8. Limited understanding of emerging technology

The DoD struggles to effectively leverage critical emerging technologies (like biotechnology and quantum information technology) due to a lack of understanding of their state-of-the-art applications among those who generate requirements and draft requests for proposals. As these technologies mature, the DoD is challenged to have meaningful conversations about how to adopt, leverage, and defend against these technologies.

Top recommendations

To address these challenges, the Commission recommends that DoD leaders, congressional defense committees, and other executive branch agencies take the following ten high-priority actions to accelerate DoD innovation adoption:

  • Modernize the DoD to align with the twenty-first century industrial base
  • Incentivize tech companies to do business with the DoD
  • Modernize the DoD’s requirements system

Recommendation 1: The DoD and Congress empower and resource five Program Executive Officers (PEOs) to operate via a new capability portfolio model in 2024.

Addresses challenges 2, 4, and 6.

  • Congress authorizes in the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and/or the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD(A&S)) implements via a memo empowering five PEO portfolios to operate via a new capability portfolio model. Component acquisition executives from the Departments of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and a defense agency will each select a PEO portfolio.
  • Service requirements organizations capture portfolio requirements in a concise, high-level document that provides overarching, joint, enduring capability needs and key mission impact measures that focus on warfighter-informed needs and mission outcomes. The Joint Staff validates the portfolio requirements within thirty days. The portfolio requirements document enables leaner program requirements and shapes future research and prototypes.
  • Selected PEOs negotiate with congressional defense appropriations staff the consolidation of at least 20 percent of the smallest budget line items within their portfolios. This enables reprogramming flexibility to meet evolving, warfighter-informed requirements. These merged budget accounts must provide Congress with sufficient visibility of major elements within each.
  • Selected PEOs develop a set of portfolio strategies, processes, road maps, contracts, infrastructure, and architectures to enable programs to leverage for greater speed and success. Portfolio contracting strategies will look beyond individual contracts or programs to promote a robust industrial base by enabling continuous competition, iterative development, supply chain risk mitigation, greater participation of nontraditional companies, commercial service acquisition, and economies of scale.
  • Selected PEOs may lay out plans to decompose large programs into modular acquisitions; leverage common platforms, components, and services; and maximize use of commercial solutions and DoD research. Portfolios will scale and align prototyping, experimentation, and testing infrastructure. They will invest in a common suite of engineering tools, platforms, and strategies to enable interoperability, cybersecurity, and resiliency.
  • PEOs require portfolio leaders to actively engage the DoD’s R&D community, industry, and academia to communicate joint-warfighter portfolio needs and business opportunities, scout technologies, engage companies, and drive novel solutions to address portfolio needs.
  • Congress appropriates at least $20 million to each portfolio per year for three years to enable PEOs to implement the new model with appropriate staff, analytic tools, and strategies. The five PEOs work out the details for others to adopt. In time, the department will realize savings and return on investment through greater program efficiencies and mission impact.
  • PEOs provide the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and Congress a short annual report to share insight into the new portfolio model progress, including issues, successes, and inputs to scale adoption.

Success measure: By the end of 2023, five PEO portfolios are identified to operate via the new portfolio model. By the end of 2024, these portfolios begin operating with clear direction, leadership support, and initial implementation plans.

Notional example: A command-and-control PEO shapes a portfolio strategy that invests in a software factory and enterprise services as a common infrastructure, with smaller programs tapping a diverse vendor base to regularly and iteratively deliver a suite of applications that work together seamlessly.

Recommendation 2: Acquisition executives propose consolidated program elements to congressional staff and negotiate what can be included in the FY 2024 Appropriations Act joint explanatory statement.

Addresses challenges 2, 6, and 7.

  • Determine criteria for consolidation, such as BLIs and PEs under $20 million, software-defined technologies, and supply chain-affected efforts.
  • Determine constructs for consolidation, such as capability areas, mission areas, and organizational alignment.
  • Reduce BLI and PE count from more than 1,700 today in the investment accounts by at least 200 BLI and PEs each year, starting with the FY 2024 markup, for three years to enable cost-schedule-performance trade-offs, including the prototyping and fielding of novel systems that meet defined capability or mission areas.
  • Allow PEOs, warfighters, and other DoD stakeholders to provide input to acquisition executives. Senior leadership in the resourcing process should propose the items to be consolidated and negotiate with congressional staff in advance of FY 2024 appropriations.
  • Identify line items that enable opportunistic efforts to insert technologies into existing weapons programs without requiring a new start. Identify best practices for broadly justifying activities within a capability set.

Success measure: The number of BLIs in the investment accounts is reduced by at least 200 in time for the passage of regular appropriations in FY 2024.

Notional example: A PEO identifies a novel technology from DARPA or industry to integrate into one of its programs to improve performance and accelerate capability delivery. With investment funds spread across fewer budget accounts, the PEO is able to reprogram funds from a lower-priority development within the year of execution.

Recommendation 3: Congressional appropriations committees reset reprogramming authorities to historical norms in their FY 2024 joint explanatory statements.

Addresses challenges 2 and 7.

  • Current reprogramming thresholds will be maintained, but above-threshold actions will revert from congressional prior approval to the historical norm of congressional notification with a thirty-day window for briefing or rejection. This streamlines the process and enables greater reprogramming while still providing Congress “veto authority” to block reprogramming actions they oppose. Prior approval will remain in place for items omitted, deleted, or specifically reduced; general transfer authorities; or above threshold new starts.
  • Letter notifications for new starts will be “for the fiscal year,” not “for the entire effort.” This enables programs greater flexibility to start small programs while Congress retains the right to veto any new starts it opposes.

Success measure: Recommended language is included in the FY 2024 Appropriations Act joint explanatory statement by the time regular appropriations are passed.

Notional example: An acquisition program is “early to need” for procurement funds due to delays in finalizing development. Another program desperately seeks additional funds to accelerate and scale production of its weapon system. Service leadership decides to reprogram $50M in procurement funds between the programs to optimize investments.

Recommendation 4: Congress directs the DoD to elevate the DIU to a direct report to DepSecDef and resource it effectively to align and harness the nontraditional defense industrial base for the twenty-first century no later than six months of the enactment of this act.

Addresses challenges 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8.

  • DIU, USD(R&E), USD(A&S), and service partners should regularly integrate their efforts, in communicating to the industrial base the department’s needs, planned investments, and business opportunities. In addition, they should share among themselves what is being discovered in industry that aligns with the department’s missions.
  • In its expanded role, DIU should be resourced to regularly engage with acquisition organizations (PEOs, program offices), science and technology (S&T) organizations (labs, DARPA), and combatant commands to share the insights it gets from nontraditional industry players throughout the DoD. Additionally, DIU will communicate back to industry where it can align its technologies to the needs of the warfighter as communicated by acquisition organizations and combatant commands.
  • Prioritization for expanded staffing for DIU should be for new billets from the services over funding for contractors. The billets would be priority assignments, selected from relevant PEOs and service acquisition executives (SAEs).
  • DIU should track the intelligence, insights, and inputs it receives from industry trade associations, venture capitalists (VCs), private equity firms, primes, nontraditional defense companies (NDCs), Other Transaction (OT) Consortia, and innovation hubs. This information should be interoperable with USD(R&E)’s existing repository of research and intelligence for the department’s needs.
  • Joint Staff and service requirements organizations develop a rapid “military need validation” process, involving feedback from the warfighter, for commercial solutions in lieu of traditional Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) requirements documents. This new process will enable hundreds or even thousands of commercial solutions to be validated by empowered, distributed officials, and not subject to the JCIDS process managed by the Joint Staff and the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC).
  • Contracting strategies focused on commercial solutions (e.g., Commercial Solutions Openings, Other Transactions, Federal Acquisition Regulation Parts 12 and 13).
  • Testing, experimentation, exercises, rapid deliveries, and iteration.
  • Scaling programs like DIU’s Immersive Commercial Acquisition Program.

Success measures: Higher number of DIU projects that transition to a program of record; increased number of vendors entering the federal market and competing for contracts; better alignment of capital market investment and lending to DoD missions; alignment of DoD R&D and prime IRAD funds to help a wider number of entrants across the Valley of Death; increased transparency with the industrial base on DoD’s priorities; a commercial pathway, guidance, and training enabling workforce to rapidly and successfully acquire commercial solutions; increased transparency and collaboration  within the department on tech-related initiatives and intelligence; resources saved and efficiencies gained from central repository information from traditional and nontraditional industrial base like market intelligence, technology landscape analysis and due diligence on vendors.

Notional example: Expanded engagement with nontraditional industrial base helps DIU identify the commercial sector’s leader in autonomous software for ground vehicles and through the streamlined, well-defined process for rapid acquisition, the Army begins adopting it across its fleet of logistics vehicles on CONUS bases.

In their quarterly engagement, the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) talks to DIU about its desire to procure better mission planning tools at the edge. DIU identifies and provides three viable commercial options for demonstrations. Before presenting them to MCWL, DIU leverages VC firm relationships to get existing due diligence on the potential vendors and discovers one of them draws components of its chips from China. DIU finds an alternative.

In its engagements with capital market players, DIU discovers there are several critical bottlenecks in the quantum computing supply chain due to either a severe lack of redundancy or routing through adversary nations. DIU flags this to R&E, the Office of Strategic Capital, and A&S Industrial Policy to determine how to address this. As part of this, DIU and OSC engage with capital market players to inform them this is now a department priority, helping to direct capital market funding toward these enabling technologies critical to the US broader tech competition vis-à-vis China.

Recommendation 5: Strengthen existing capital market programs and create new pathways for mission-critical technologies.

Addresses challenges 1, 3, 4, and 8.

US capital markets represent a critical yet underutilized strategic advantage for the DoD. To better leverage vast capital market resources for defense innovation and mission outcomes, the DoD should broaden programs through which capital market-backed companies can participate and create new pathways for DoD program offices to leverage capital market funding for mission-critical technologies.

Congress directs in legislation the Small Business Agency ( SBA), in coordination with the General Services Administration (GSA), to enhance the Small Business Innovation Research ( SBIR) grants program no later than six months after enactment .

To better scale SBIRs, the SBA should:

  • Generate direct to Phase III SBIR grants in which early successful performers in Phase I can be fast-tracked to more-flexible contract vehicles, for which performers have exemptions from SBA size standards for procurement; no limits on dollar size of procurement; the right to receive sole-source funding agreements; and the ability to pursue flexible ways to add value to an end user, whether that be research, R&D, services, products, production, or any combination thereof.
  • Direct the SBIR offices of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to pilot a Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) program to help bridge the Valley of Death between Phase II and Phase III SBIR grants, no later than twelve months after designated. Service pilots would replicate the STRATFI program in that SBIR funding ($15 million) would receive matched funding from customers ($15 million) and private funding (up to $30 million).

To increase competition and widen the aperture of firms competing for SBIR grants, the SBA should:

  • Remove the barrier preventing companies with more than 50 percent backing by VCs or other capital market players to compete for SBIR grants. Small businesses often rely on VC funding to cover the costs of operating as they work to commercialize their products and generate sufficient revenue to sustain their business. This is particularly true in the case of software development, where highly skilled software engineers are the single most expensive operating cost. Placing strict limitations on the ability of these small businesses to compete for SBIR grants is contrary to the SBIR program goal of supporting scientific excellence and technological innovation.
  • Remove the barrier preventing companies that meet the requirements of being a small business, but are publicly traded, to compete for SBIR grants. Small, high-tech R&D firms go public to continue their ability to raise funds for their capital-intensive technologies. By disallowing them from competing for SBIR grants, the DoD is limiting technology competition among some of the most technology-proficient corners of the industrial base.

To drive deep tech adoption, OSC should develop tools for leveraging external capital market funding for pilot projects to service R&D organizations in FY 2024, with a formalization plan in conjunction with the president’s FY 2025 budget request.

  • OSC to be given expanded authorities to access capital markets to develop revenue, investment, and credit approaches for defense programs contracting with small-, mid-, and large-cap companies. As an initial step, direct $15 million of external capital market funding to the R&D organization of each military branch to pilot projects that identify two
  • novel use cases in one or more of R&E’s deep-tech priority areas of quantum technology, biotechnology, or advanced materials that could be leveraged to achieve service-specific missions. The period of performance would be eighteen months. Service end users would provide matched funding of up to 25 percent of total outside funding to pilot these projects.
  • This would assist in directing capital market funding to the DoD’s mission, providing additional R&D funding and incentives for deep-tech companies to commercialize their technologies, and creating optimization loops that connect technology to warfighter use cases that can help turn basic research into relevant products and services. Lastly, exposure to deep-tech applications would allow service end users to better understand emerging technologies’ applications to future defense requirements. This will help accelerate the well-aligned adoption of these capabilities to meet services’ unique missions at the speed of relevance.
  • R&D leads will report to DIU’s director and USD(R&E) no more than 180 days past the period of performance on the pilot’s utility, lessons learned, and challenges DoD would face if technology were to be adopted at scale.

Success measures: Meaningful increase in capital market funding for defense-related companies; increased number of companies crossing Valley of Death and program offices integrating commercially developed technology to speed innovation milestones; increased number of production contracts from nontraditional vendors, with more vendors competing for each contract; increased touchpoints between cutting-edge tech and the warfighter/end users; and the identification of specific tech adoption challenges that can be addressed ahead of requirements process for more-seamless tech adoption and integration.

Notional examples: 1) A majority VC-backed company demonstrates a novel capability that provides an advantage over a near-peer adversary and is fast-tracked to SBIR Phase III, through which the firm begins production at scale and crosses the Valley of Death. 2) A publicly traded deep-tech company that qualifies as a small business, now allowed to compete for SBIR grants, begins to develop the foundation of a quantum network for the US military. 3) The army discovers through a biotech pilot project that an advanced material it hoped to put into a program of record does not provide meaningful benefit for the cost and pursues another alternative. 4) The navy uses its OSC pilot to buy hours of time on a quantum computer provided over the cloud, through which the navy discovers the quantum computer’s utility in improving logistics and maintenance. However, the navy does not know how to manage the data being generated and needs an extra data scientist to oversee the process. The navy begins to generate a data governance process, forms a new billet to manage it, and begins determining the best acquisition pathway in anticipation of purchasing quantum computing as a service.

Recommendation 6: Congress, OSD, and SAEs increase incentives and reduce barriers for leading technology companies to do business with the DoD by September 2024.

Addresses challenges 1 and 3.

Increase incentives

  • Production Contracts. The DoD and Congress in future defense budgets rebalance the ratio of RDT&E and Procurement funding to historical norms over the past thirty years. From 1990 to 2019, the ratio was 39 percent to 61 percent, respectively. This would provide more than $20 billion in additional procurement funds to acquire production quantities faster, leverage commercial R&D, and fuel a broader market for leading technology firms. Increasing production and lowering barriers to entry will attract venture capital firms and bring private research and development funding to the defense market. As most of USD(R&E)’s fourteen critical technologies are commercially driven, this rebalance would enable faster fielding of warfighter priorities.
  • Set Precedent. USD(A&S) and SAEs report the number of large contracts (i.e., more than $50 million) awarded to start-ups and NDCs annually to measure and convey the trends of the DoD investing in these companies beyond small SBIR awards.
  • Innovation Funds. USD(R&E) and services include start-ups and NDCs as part of selection criteria for congressionally directed innovation funds.
  • Show Support. USD(A&S) and SAEs scale the direction, goals, and guidance for working with small and disadvantaged businesses to include technology start-ups and NDCs. Include NDCs as part of the small-business integration working group being established for FY23 NDAA Section 874.
  • Broaden Access to Capital Markets. Congress and USD(A&S) modernize the use of Defense Production Act Title III and credit loan authorities available to other agencies and departments to dynamically access capital, embrace commercial terms, and strengthen the domestic industrial base capabilities, based on lessons learned from COVID and the war in Ukraine. This use could include purchase commitments and loan guarantees, similar to how the Export-Import Bank works with US companies overseas, to increase incentives and reduce risk for companies seeking to scale production of critical technologies.

Decrease barriers

  • Congress should raise the cost accounting standards (CAS) threshold to at least $100 million; revise the commercial item exemption in 48 CFR 9903.201-1(b)(6); and make related CAS reforms as recommended by the Section 809 Panel to reduce compliance costs, which are the biggest barrier to entry in defense.
  • DoD, GSA, and Office of Management and Budget invest in modernizing and related DoD websites that publish contract opportunities to improve user design, alerts, DoD-industry collaboration, processes, and status. Many find onerous to use.
  • Fully resource and drive the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency to streamline processes, increase staffing, and pursue novel approaches to reduce the large backlog of individual and facility security clearances that impose long delays on contractors to begin work or scale.
  • USD(A&S) and SAEs assign visible leaders for SBIR, OT (including OT Consortia), Middle Tier of Acquisitions, and Commercial Solutions Openings to champion adoption; set vision; simplify processes; curate leading strategies; and improve guidance, training, structures, and direction to continuously improve adoption. Update policies and guidelines to ensure efforts conducted under OTs count for past performance and small disadvantaged business goals to incentivize industry and government use.
  • USD(A&S), USD(R&E), and services establish a team to map and improve processes to scale successful research and prototypes into new or existing acquisition programs. This includes requirements, acquisition, budget, contracting, engineering, and testing, among others.
  • USD(A&S) and SAEs establish a working group, to include primes and NDCs, to explore how to incentivize primes to better leverage technology start-up companies. The objective is to fuel disruptive defense innovation from novel tech companies and leverage the primes to scale integration and production of weapon systems to create an enduring battlefield advantage.

Success measure: USD(A&S) reports an increase in the number of new companies in the industrial base by 5 percent, offsetting the recent trend of 5 percent decrease annually. At least ten NDCs are awarded contracts of more than $50 million that address validated defense requirements. Defense primes significantly increase partnerships, subcontracts, and acquisitions of start-ups and NDCs to integrate their technologies into weapon systems.

Notional example: A leading technology company with viable solutions for defense that historically avoided defense contracts is now receptive (with board support) to pursue contracts given the higher CAS thresholds, reduced unique compliance requirements, and improved clearance processes.

Recommendation 7: USD comptroller proposes streamlined budget justification and chief digital and artificial intelligence officer (CDAO) modernizes supporting details in congressionally accessible information system for the president’s FY 2026 budget request.

Addresses challenge 7.

  • Seek implementation for the president’s FY 2026 budget request.
  • This tool should be capable of replicating Financial Management Regulation Volume 2B, Chapters 4 and 5 presentations.
  • Prototype early access to congressional staff with the president’s FY 2025 budget request, in addition to the traditional format.
  • This tool should seek to incorporate budget execution data such as quarterly DD1416s and contract obligations as data integration improves.

Success measure: Congressional staff use the new information system for their budgetary and program analysis; staff desires expansion into other accounts, including Operations and Maintenance and Military Personnel.

Notional example: Congressional staff can find up-to-date information on DoD program activities without having DoD officials provide the information directly to a committee.

Recommendation 8: Tying experimentation to acquisition outcomes: Scaling and accelerating successful demonstrations

Addresses challenges 1, 4, and 8.

The DoD and industry invest significant time, funding, and resources to conduct operational exercises that experiment and demonstrate emerging capabilities and technologies in an operationally relevant environment. Even after a major exercise in which senior commanders agree on the success of demonstrated capabilities and demand to acquire these at scale, there is often a two- to four-year lag time for DoD to formally define requirements, secure funding, and shape acquisition and contract strategies. For example, even successful capabilities selected by USD(R&E)’s Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) still must go through the Program Objective Memorandum and Deputy Secretary’s Management Action Group processes to begin scaling.

  • Congress to pilot providing $250 million to scale operationally relevant technologies demonstrated at operational exercises that address the preeminent challenge of deterring the People’s Republic of China, such as RDER. The funds will facilitate the acceleration and scaling of novel capabilities into the hands of the warfighter at the speed of relevance, help vendors cross the Valley of Death, and incentivize new nontraditional companies to work with the DoD. This will significantly shorten the traditionally long lag times for successful vendors to receive funding while the DoD finalizes requirements, funding, and contracts. The associated funds would be particularly useful for the technology needed to integrate military forces that will revolve around digital tools and other foundational “middleware” technologies that sometimes fall in the seams of traditional major hardware-centric acquisition.

The fund should:

  • Be allocated in FY 2024 spending bill to specific programs or initiatives no later than 180 days from completion of the exercise on discovered solutions.
  • Be limited to five or fewer high-potential capabilities to ensure they are properly resourced to meaningfully scale.
  • Be directly allocated to an acquisition organization, such as a program executive office, to rapidly acquire capabilities that have demonstrated success in order to address priority operational risks or opportunities.
  • Use Defense Production Act Title III or adapt authorities available to other agencies and departments to provide credit guarantees or other funding approaches in support of technology and capability providers.

Success measures: Increased number of technologies and capabilities demonstrated successfully that are transitioned at scale to the warfighter; increased number of vendors incentivized to demonstrate at exercises.

Notional example: A company demonstrates a swarm of small undersea intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drones at the Rim of the Pacific 2024 exercise. The firm is awarded a low-rate initial production contract within sixty days and deploys its capability with the navy in 2025.

Recommendation 9: USD(A&S) and acquisition executives propose realigning existing organizations to adopt the Space Development Agency (SDA) model, and Congress grants additional enabling authorities to those organizations in FY25 NDAA.

Addresses challenges 2 and 4.

  • SDA provides an early model for preemptive disruption within the Space Force. The disruptive units should focus on current technologies from the labs and industry that can be quickly fielded and scaled within existing rapid acquisition authorities. Mature defense and commercial capabilities, along with broader portfolio requirements, can shape a streamlined process. This model builds upon successful organizations like the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Big Safari, and Special Operations Command’s acquisition and SOFWERX organizations.
  • Service leadership identifies priority capability areas that are ripe for disruption—ones where the current operational model is outmoded for the digital age and/or where novel technologies offer radically different operational capabilities at greater speed and scale to achieve mission priorities.
  • Identify the right charismatic leader who embodies these characteristics: high technical acumen, proven product manager, well-defined vision, extensive personal network in warfighting and industry communities, commitment to a five-year tenure, and an intangible “wild card” quality. Provide statutory protections to extend top cover beyond the length of time of political appointees for the new organizations to disrupt entrenched mindsets on major systems, operations, and force structures employed for decades.
  • DoD leaders continually discuss and iterate on the new model with key stakeholder organizations across the DoD and congressional defense committees.

Success measure: Congressional buy-in, with a small set of targeted projects identified for each organization and underway in FY 2024 to prepare for rapid scaling in FY 2025 with capabilities initially fielded by FY 2027.

Notional example: Navy leadership, in its commitment to autonomous systems, bundles PEO Unmanned and Small Combatants, Task Force 59, Unmanned Task Force, and the director of unmanned systems into a new naval autonomy organization with authorities and flexibilities similar to SDA and related rapid-innovation organizations.

Recommendation 10: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS) and services establish a team to collaboratively modernize JCIDS and service requirements processes by September 2024.

Addresses challenges 2, 4, and.

The DoD’s JCIDS is a complex, disjointed bureaucracy across Joint Staff and the services. The DoD requires a streamlined, tailored requirements framework and processes that iterate operational needs and threats with technology solutions, while also aligning requirements, acquisition, and budget systems.

VCJCS and services charter a team or multiple teams to modernize DoD’s requirements enterprise to include:

  • Design a requirements framework that better incorporates bottom-up capability requirements from the warfighter and addresses joint strategic capability concerns. It must align service/agency and JROC core processes while allowing some tailoring and flexibility.
  • Enable a requirements system that breaks from the mindset of locking down all requirements up front to a dynamic model that enables software-intensive commercial solutions and emerging technologies that meet changing or evolving warfighting needs to iteratively shape capability developments.
  • Overhaul, streamline, and tailor requirements documents based on capability size, urgency, product vs. service, and hardware vs. software. Develop new process to rapidly validate the military utility of a commercial solution instead of the traditional JCIDS.
  • Aggressively streamline capability requirement development, coordination, and approval timelines from operational commands, through component commands, and Joint Staff. Impose tripwires for exceeding six months for software and twelve months for hardware to get senior leader involvement.
  • Develop enduring overarching requirements for capability portfolios. Include a set of mission impact measures to focus investments and acquisitions to continuously improve.
  • Retire the outmoded DoD Architecture Framework and focus on application programming interfaces per DepSecDef’s data decree, architectures, and standards to enable interoperability. Strike the right balance between enterprise, service, and portfolio orchestration with flexibility for program and industry solutions.
  • Modernize the analysis of alternatives processes to enable a more streamlined and iterative approach that values prototypes, experiments, minimum viable products, and commercial solutions with warfighter and other user feedback over lengthy headquarters staff analysis.
  • Better integrate threat and technology assessments early and throughout the process.
  • The team must include external change management experts and collaborate with industry (traditional and nontraditional) and the DoD S&T community to get their input and feedback on providing options to inform DoD requirements.
  • Develop a career path, structure, and improved training for DoD requirements managers.
  • Publish new policies, guidance, and templates in dynamic online formats instead of five-hundred-page PDFs.
  • Congress directs the Government Accountability Office to assess the DoD’s requirements management processes, policies, and practices to include timelines; alignment to the DoD
  • budget and acquisition processes, mission outcomes, portfolio management; and harnessing commercial technologies.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee and/or House Armed Services Committee hold hearings with the VCJCS and the service chiefs on modernizing DoD requirements processes to enable greater speed, agility, and innovation.

Success measure: Joint Staff and service stakeholder organizations collaboratively develop a modern approach to managing defense requirements. The new requirements system integrates the key elements outlined above by September 2024.

Notional example: The Air Force establishes an uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) portfolio requirements document that aggressively streamlines all future UAS requirements, bakes in interoperability standards, and enables many novel commercial solutions.

This interim report is focused on providing elected officials and senior DoD leaders with actionable recommendations that can be enacted promptly. The Commission discussed and acknowledged broader, strategic matters that will take time to flesh out and implement. These include establishing a more fulsome capital market engagement strategy, harnessing a modern workforce, and exploring digital transformations of enterprise systems to enable broader reforms and opportunities. The Commission’s final report, which is planned for September 2023, will expand upon these ten recommendations to include a broader set of reforms to strengthen defense innovation adoption. It will include case studies that highlight successes in adopting dual-use technologies within short time frames. After all, living through the “decisive decade” means that Americans deserve decisive capabilities to provide for the common defense, in this decade.

interim task force

Board Director and Co-Chair of the Commission , Atlantic Council; 27th US Secretary of Defense

The Honorable Mark T. Esper is a partner and board member of the venture capital firm Red Cell Partners and a board director at the Atlantic Council. He was sworn in as the 27th Secretary of Defense on July 23, 2019, and served in that capacity until November 9, 2020. He previously served as acting secretary of defense from June 24, 2019, to July 15, 2019. Esper was confirmed as the 23rd secretary of the US Army in November 2017.

In the private sector, Esper was vice president for government relations at the Raytheon Company.

He earlier served concurrently as executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center and as vice president for European and Eurasian affairs from 2008 to 2010. From 2006 to 2007, He was chief operating officer and executive vice president of defense and international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association.

In addition to his work in the private sector, Esper served in a range of positions on Capitol Hill and in the Defense Department. He served as legislative director and senior policy advisor to former Senator Chuck Hagel. He was a senior professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Governmental Affairs committees, policy director for the House Armed Services Committee, and national security advisor for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. During the President George W. Bush administration, he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy at the Pentagon. He was national policy director to the late Senator Fred Thompson for his 2008 presidential campaign and was a Senate-appointed commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. 

Esper began his career in the US Army. He is a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Academy and received his commission in the infantry. Upon completion of Ranger and Pathfinder training, he served in the 101st Airborne Division and participated in the 1990-91 Gulf War with the “Screaming Eagles.” He later commanded a rifle company in the 3-325 Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy. He retired from the army in 2007 after spending ten years on active duty and eleven years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. After leaving active duty, he served as chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation think tank.

He is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Among his many military awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal-Saudi Arabia, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Esper holds a PhD from the George Washington University.

interim task force

Board Director and Co-Chair of the Commission , Atlantic Council; 23rd US Secretary of the Air Force

The Honorable Deborah Lee James is chair of the Defense Business Board and board director at the Atlantic Council. Previously, she served as the twenty-third secretary of the US Air Force and was responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping, and providing for the welfare of its nearly 660,000 active-duty, National Guard, Reserve, and civilian airmen and their families. She also oversaw the Air Force’s annual budget of more than $139 billion. James has thirty years of senior homeland and national security experience in the federal government and the private sector.

Prior to her Air Force position, James served as president of Science Applications International Corporation’s (SAIC’s) technical and engineering sector, where she was responsible for 8,700 employees and more than $2 billion in revenue.

For twelve years, James held a variety of positions with SAIC, including senior vice president and director of homeland security. From 2000 to 2001, she was executive vice president and chief operating officer at Business Executives for National Security, and from 1998 to 2000 she was vice president of international operations and marketing at United Technologies. During the Bill Clinton administration, from 1993 to 1998, James served in the Pentagon as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. In that position, she was senior advisor to the secretary of defense on all matters pertaining to the 1.8 million National Guard and Reserve personnel worldwide. In addition to working extensively with Congress, state governors, the business community, military associations, and international officials on National Guard and Reserve component issues, James oversaw a $10 billion budget and supervised a one-hundred-plus-person staff. Prior to her Senate confirmation in 1993, she served as an assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. 

From 1983 to 1993, James worked as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, where she served as a senior advisor to the Military Personnel and Compensation Subcommittee, the NATO Burden Sharing Panel, and the chairman’s Member Services team. 

James earned a BA in comparative area studies from Duke University and an MA in international affairs from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

interim task force

Eric Lofgren

Professional Staff Member, Seapower and Acquisition Lead , US Senate Committee on Armed Services; Author , Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption , Atlantic Council

Eric Lofgren is a professional staff member and the seapower and acquisition lead for the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. His work on this Commission was completed while he was a research fellow at the Center for Government Contracting in the George Mason University (GMU) School of Business, where he performed research, wrote, and led initiatives on business, policy, regulatory, and other issues in government contracting.

He manages the daily blog Acquisition Talk and produces the Acquisition Talk podcast, on which he interviews leading experts in the field. Lofgren was an emergent ventures fellow at GMU’s Mercatus Center. Prior to joining GMU, he was a senior analyst at Technomics Inc., supporting the Defense Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. He has also supported government analyses for the Government Accountability Office, Naval Sea Systems Command, Canada Public Works, and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost and Economics.

interim task force

Whitney M. McNamara

Vice President , Beacon Global Strategies; Author , Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption , Atlantic Council

Whitney McNamara is a vice president at Beacon Global Strategies. Prior to that, McNamara worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, where she served as the S&T portfolio lead at the Defense Innovation Board, whose mission is to provide the secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense, and other senior leaders with recommendations on emerging technologies and innovative approaches that DoD should adopt to ensure US technological and military dominance.

Before that, McNamara was an emerging technologies policy subject matter expert supporting the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer (CIO). Prior to that, she was a senior analyst at national security think tank the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, focusing on emerging technologies, future operating concepts, and informationized warfare in the context of long-term technological and military competition with great powers.

interim task force

Peter Modigliani

Defense Acquisition Lead ,MITRE Corporation; Author , Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption , Atlantic Council

Peter Modigliani is a defense acquisition leader within the MITRE Corporation enabling the DoD and intelligence community to deliver innovative solutions with greater speed and agility. He works with acquisition and CIO executives, program managers, the Section 809 Panel, congressional staffs, industry, and academia to shape acquisition reforms, strategic initiatives, and major program strategies.

Modigliani champions digitally transforming the acquisition enterprise to modernize and accelerate operations. He launched MITRE’s digital acquisition platform, AiDA. Prior to MITRE, Modigliani was an Air Force program manager for C4ISR programs and an assistant vice president with Alion Science and Technology, supporting the Air Force Acquisition Executive’s Information Dominance division.

interim task force

Stephen Rodriguez

Senior Advisor and Study Director of the Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption , Forward Defense , Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security , Atlantic Council

Stephen Rodriguez is a senior advisor with the Forward Defense program at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and founding partner of One Defense, a next-generation strategic advisory firm that leverages machine learning to identify advanced software and hardware commercial capabilities and accelerate their transition into the defense industrial base. He is also a venture partner at Refinery Ventures, an early-scale fund investing in dual-use technologies across the country. Rodriguez began his career at Booz Allen Hamilton supporting its national security practice.

In his capacity as an expert on game-theoretic applications, he supported the US intelligence community, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security as a lead architect for wargames. He subsequently was a vice president at Sentia Group, an artificial intelligence company, and served as chief marketing officer for NCL Holdings, an international defense corporation. Rodriguez serves as a board director or board advisor of ten venture-backed companies—Duco, Edgybees, Hatch Apps, HighSide, Omelas, Uniken, Ursa Major Technologies, Vantage Robotics, War on the Rocks , and Zignal Labs—as well as the nonprofit organizations Public Spend Forum and Training Leaders International. He is also senior innovation advisor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

interim task force

Clementine G. Starling

Director , Forward Defense , Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security , Atlantic Council

Clementine G. Starling is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense program and a resident fellow within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. In her role, she shapes the Center’s US defense research agenda, leads Forward Defense’s team of nine staff and forty fellows, and produces thought leadership on US security strategies and the evolving character of warfare. Her research focuses on long-term US thinking on issues like China’s and Russia’s defense strategies, space security, defense industry, and emerging technology. Prior to launching Forward Defense, Starling served as deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security team, specializing in European security policy and NATO.

From 2016, she supported NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division at two NATO summits (Brussels and London) and organized and managed three senior Atlantic Council task forces on US force posture in Europe, military mobility, and US defense innovation adoption. During her time at the Atlantic Council, Starling has written numerous reports and commentary on US space strategy, deterrence, operational concepts, coalition warfare, and US-Europe relations. She regularly serves as a panelist and moderator at public conferences. Among the outlets that have featured her analysis and commentary are Defense One, Defense News, RealClearDefense, the National Interest , SpaceNews , NATO’s Joint Air and Space Power Conference, the BBC, National Public Radio, ABC News, and Government Matters , among others. Starling was named the 2022 Herbert Roback scholar by the US National Academy of Public Administration. She also served as the 2020 Security and Defense fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. Originally from the United Kingdom, Starling previously worked in the UK Parliament focusing on technology, defense, Middle East security, and Ukraine. She also supported the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, championing for the United Kingdom to remain within the European Union. She graduated with honors from the London School of Economics with a BS in international relations and history and is an MA candidate in security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Mark J. Massa is an associate director in the Forward Defense program. His work focuses on nuclear deterrence strategy and policy. He holds an MA in security studies and a BSFS in science, technology, and international affairs from Georgetown University.

Delharty M. Manson II is a program assistant in the Forward Defense program. His work focuses on defense innovation and operational concepts. He holds a BA in public policy from the College of William & Mary.

Jacob Mezey is a program assistant in the Forward Defense program. His work focuses on nuclear security, space security, and defense innovation. He holds a BA in history from Yale University.


This interim report was written and prepared with the support and input of its authors, Commissioners on the Atlantic Council’s Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption, and the Forward Defense program of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

This effort was conducted under the supervision of Commission Director Stephen Rodriguez, Forward Defense Director Clementine Starling, and Forward Defense Associate Director Mark J. Massa. Thank you to Julia Siegel and Christian Trotti for earlier contributions. Special thanks to Atlantic Council CEO Fred Kempe and Barry Pavel for their support of this effort.

This effort has been made possible through the generous support of Booz Allen Hamilton as the Foundational Sponsor as well as sponsorship from Accrete AI, ACT1 Federal, Applied Intuition, Palantir, Peraton, Primer AI, Rebellion Defense, Schmidt Futures, and Snowpoint Ventures.

Foundational sponsor

interim task force

To produce this interim report, the authors conducted more than fifty interviews and consultations with current and former officials in the US Department of Defense, congressional staff members, allied embassies in Washington, DC, and other academic and think tank organizations. However, the analysis and recommendations presented in this Interim Report are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of individuals consulted, Commissioners, Commission sponsors, the Atlantic Council, or any US government organization. Moreover, the authors, Commissioners, and consulted experts participated in a personal, not institutional, capacity.

ATR : Above threshold reprogramming BLI : Budget line item CAS : Cost Accounting Standards CDAO : Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer DARPA : Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DepSecDef : Deputy Secretary of Defense DIU : Defense Innovation Unit DoD : US Department of Defense FFRDC : Federally Funded Research and Development Center GSA : General Services Administration IRAD : Independent research & development JCIDS : Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System JROC : Joint Requirements Oversight Council MCWL : US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory NDAA : National Defense Authorization Act NDC : Nontraditional defense companies OSC : Office of Strategic Capital OSD : Office of the Secretary of Defense

OT : Other transaction PE : Program elements PEO : Program executive officer / office RDER : Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve RDT&E : Research, development, testing, and evaluation S&T : Science and technology SAE : Service acquisition executive SBA : Small Business Agency SBIR : Small Business Innovation Research program SDA : Space Development Agency SOCOM : US Special Operations Command STRATFI : Strategic Funding Increase UAS : Uncrewed aerial system USD(A&S) : Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment USD(R&E) : Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering USD : Under Secretary of Defense VC : Venture capital / venture capitalist VCJCS : Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Related Experts: Clementine G. Starling , Stephen Rodriguez , Mark J. Massa , Jacob Mezey , and Delharty Manson

Image: The cover artwork is an artificial-intelligence generated image, created by Atlantic Council staff on Dall-E2. The prompt entered was “defense innovation ecosystem” and Dall-E2 generated the image which was then edited in Adobe Photoshop. Source:

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Leader of Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization with Ties to Mexican Cartel Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

Defendant directed fentanyl distribution in massachusetts on behalf of mexico-based suppliers.

BOSTON – A coordinator for a large-scale international fentanyl trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, operating on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, has been sentenced in federal court in Boston.

Fermin Castillo, 43, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge William G. Young to 25 years in prison and five years of supervised release. In May 2023, Castillo was convicted along with co-defendant Andre Heraux Martinez of conspiracy to distribute over 400 grams of fentanyl and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 11, 2023.

“The flow of deadly fentanyl from Mexico to Massachusetts is directly tied to the devastation this drug has had on our communities. Castillo was close to the apex of a large-scale drug distribution network that was tied to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. This organization pumped cheap, deadly fentanyl onto the streets of dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns. This sentence of 25 years reflects the gravity of his drug dealing and money laundering,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

“DEA is committed to investigating and dismantling Drug Trafficking Organizations and individuals like Mr. Castillo who are responsible for distributing lethal drugs like fentanyl to the citizens of Massachusetts,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division. “This substantial sentence not only holds Mr. Castillo accountable for his crimes but serves as a warning to those traffickers who are fueling the opioid epidemic with deadly drugs in order to profit and destroy people’s lives. DEA’s top priority is combatting the opioid epidemic by working with our local, county, state and federal partners to bring to justice anyone who distributes this poison.”

“This investigation, initiated by Massachusetts State Troopers assigned to the DEA Boston Strike Force made a significant impact on the safety of our communities in the Commonwealth. The investigation interdicted dangerous drugs from being delivered and distributed to the streets of Massachusetts. The dismantling of the DTO, resulted in the conviction of dangerous, predatory drug dealers who prey on, for profit, persons struggling with addiction. I want to recognize the tireless work and also acknowledge the challenges considering this investigation began during the COVID pandemic. This joint effort is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement partners work together cooperatively,” said John E. Mawn Jr., Interim Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police.

In July 2020, an investigation began into a drug trafficking and money laundering organization distributing large quantities of fentanyl and laundering drug proceeds. Intercepted communications identified Castillo as the leader of the organization who coordinated fentanyl shipments into Massachusetts on behalf of a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization and coordinated the laundering of hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds.

Although Castillo resided in Mexico, he was in constant contact with co-conspirators in Massachusetts via encrypted messaging about fentanyl shipments to Massachusetts. Additionally, on a number of occasions, Castillo personally came to Massachusetts to oversee the delivery of fentanyl shipments and to launder drug proceeds before returning to Mexico.

In total, Castillo organized the drop-off of $966,030 in fentanyl proceeds for the purposes of money laundering. Additionally, evidence presented at trial established that Castillo was accountable for conspiring to distribute nearly 20 kilograms of fentanyl.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, DEA SAC Boyle and MSP Interim Colonel Mawn made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leah B. Foley and Stephen W. Hassink of the Narcotics & Money Laundering Unit prosecuted the case.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at .  


NBC News

Defying presidents and Congress, the ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. marshals shroud their shootings in secrecy

Posted: December 5, 2023 | Last updated: December 5, 2023

During an early Friday dinner rush in 2020, shots rang out as teen workers at a Texas Roadhouse outside Detroit took to-go orders to customers in the parking lot. Bullets whizzed overhead as people ducked for cover, witnesses said. Stray rounds hit parked vehicles, a restaurant window and a wall, photos show.

Earlier that day, FBI agents had decided to arrest a man suspected of having ties to a domestic extremist group on federal weapons charges outside the steakhouse.

When the gunfire stopped, an agent had been shot in the hip and the suspect was dead — having bled out just feet from the restaurant’s entrance, according to local police reports and video.

An employee who was preparing food inside when the shooting began recalled a bullet passing inches from her head. “It was the most horrifying experience I’ve ever had in my life,” she said.

In 2021, bullets flew outside a 7-Eleven during a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The same year, U.S. marshals fired shots inside a barbecue restaurant in the Chicago area, and a firefight erupted during a Drug Enforcement Administration search aboard an Amtrak passenger train in Tucson, Arizona.

Three suspects and a federal officer were killed in the four incidents. Another suspect and three officers were injured. Miraculously, no bystanders were struck.

Had they been local police shootings, they might have generated public demands to release body camera video and use-of-force investigation reports. But they were federal operations, conducted by agents and task forces with four federal law enforcement agencies — the FBI, the ATF, the DEA and the U.S. Marshals Service — in which the use of force remains largely a black box, free from public scrutiny.

Congress and a string of presidents for nearly 30 years have been pushing federal law enforcement to reform and become more transparent. But those four agencies overseen by the Justice Department, among the most prestigious in the country, have been slow to adopt reforms long embraced by big-city police departments, such as the use of body cameras and the release of comprehensive use-of-force data.

To understand how often federal officers and their task forces use deadly force, NBC News built a database of shootings that involved officers working for or with the ATF, the DEA, the FBI and the Marshals Service by reviewing five years’ worth of public documents, news releases, lawsuits and news reports.

From 2018 to 2022, 223 people were shot by an on-duty federal officer, a member of a federal task force or a local officer participating in an operation with federal agents, according to an NBC News analysis. A total of 151 were killed, an average of 30 per year. 

Examinations of the incidents revealed that the Justice Department’s law enforcement agencies continue to use tactics that many big-city police departments now shun. They have fired at moving cars and shot people within seconds of encounters — without taking steps to de-escalate the situations.

Some federal law enforcement practices have generated disputes with local police chiefs, in addition to civil rights leaders, who question why federal officers aren’t held to the same standards as state and city law enforcement officers.

Although the Justice Department has forced local law enforcement, like the Baltimore and Los Angeles police departments , to reform, its own agencies are legally exempt from similar oversight. The use-of-force data the Justice Department agencies publish is so limited that it is hard to determine who was shot, why, when and by whom.

President Joe Biden has been pushing for reforms, and during his administration, the Justice Department has updated its use-of-force policy for the first time in nearly 20 years. The department now requires its officers to intervene when they witness excessive force and limits the use of so-called no-knock warrants and other controversial tactics.

“The Department of Justice recognizes the importance of transparency and accountability in its law enforcement operations," Peter Carr, a department spokesperson, said in a statement.

He added that the use-of-force policy was updated to "ensure it parallels the best practices of federal, state and local law enforcement” and that the Justice Department is committed to "full implementation" of body cameras for its agents.

But some of the department's toughest critics remain its former leaders, who say Biden's reforms aren't enough. Federal law enforcement is “the most opaque” of all law enforcement in the U.S., said Jonathan M. Smith, a former section chief in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Because of an “inability to actually get basic information,” said Smith, now a civil rights attorney who has sued federal officers for allegedly abusive practices, it can be difficult to influence how the agencies operate or hold them accountable.

“There are no consequences for these federal agencies,” he said. “We often find that they’re engaged in behaviors that either violate the Constitution or that are contrary to the values of a democratic society.”

From small towns to big cities

On any given day, more than 24,000 federal law enforcement officers overseen by the Justice Department are at work across the U.S., conducting surveillance, executing search warrants and pursuing people wanted for violent and nonviolent crimes. Their ranks swell to at least 40,000 once state and local officers who serve on their task forces are added — regular police certified with federal powers and protections while they are working for the ATF, the DEA, the FBI or the Marshals Service.

NBC News’ review found that shootings by officers working for or with those agencies took place in rural towns and big cities, in shopping centers, outside popular restaurants and inside neighborhood stores. They often occurred while federal officers were trying to arrest people or serve warrants, sometimes for low-level crimes. More than 100 of the shootings were investigated by local prosecutors, with only two resulting in criminal charges for officers.

Roughly 14% of the people shot were wanted on low-level charges such as violating probation. At least 44% were wanted in connection with serious violent crimes, including armed robbery, rape and murder. Many others had warrants for drug crimes and gun possession by a felon. Some were armed and fired first when officers approached. Twenty-two weren't the intended targets of the operations — some of them attacked officers, while a smaller number were bystanders. Nearly 70% of the 223 people officers shot died. Forty-nine officers were also shot, six fatally.

In nearly half of the shootings, multiple officers fired their weapons, and in 47%, at least one federal officer did, NBC News found. Local officers serving on federal task forces fired in a third of shootings, and police without federal powers fired in 14% of them. NBC News was unable to verify the types of officers who fired in a small proportion of incidents.

The majority of people who were killed were shot during U.S. marshals operations. The Marshals Service is the primary federal agency that goes after fugitives, which officials said is why it has a high number of shootings.

The review was limited to Justice Department law enforcement agencies, excluding the Bureau of Prisons. It didn't examine the Department of Homeland Security, which houses Customs and Border Protection , the country's largest federal law enforcement agency .

Read the full methodology here.

The NBC News analysis found 23 shootings in which officers opened fire during daylight in highly trafficked public places.

In August 2022, members of the U.S Marshals Mountain State Fugitive Task Force felt it would be safest to arrest Jason Owens at his father’s funeral, because it was less likely he’d be armed.

Owens had gone to prison for choking a sheriff’s deputy and had stopped checking in with his parole officer. The task force asked local police to assist in arresting him.

In interviews with investigators afterward, officers at the scene said they watched Owens leave the funeral home as a pallbearer and then moved to arrest him after he helped load his father's casket into a hearse. Owens reached for his 9 mm pistol, officers said.

A local officer assisting the marshals-led task force grabbed Owens’ wrist and then shot him dead — sending mourners scrambling.

His family still questions why officers tried to arrest and opened fire on him at a funeral, where more than two dozen loved ones, including children, had gathered.

“Why do that on that day and ruin a good man’s funeral and put all these babies and us through that?” asked Sabrina Owens, an aunt.

Multiple family members deny that Owens reached for his gun. Evelyn O’Dell, another aunt, said officers shot him seconds after she released him from a hug.

“I felt the bullets,” she said. “I actually thought I was shot.”

Eight months later, Grant County’s top prosecutor said he found the shooting justified. His office didn't respond to requests for comment.

Federal officers often planned arrests and drug buys in public places, like malls and restaurants. At least three DEA shootings happened during undercover buys in shopping center parking lots, including one outside a Florida Bass Pro Shop. 

Law enforcement experts say that while all planned operations carry risk, often the most desirable place to apprehend someone is in the open, where officers can establish multiple points of surveillance and better control the scene. The risk that something could go wrong multiplies when they are approaching a private home or building, where officers don’t know what’s behind the front door.

Thor Eells, the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, said that while they are planning to make an arrest, officers should conduct a risk assessment in which everyone's safety — including the suspect’s — is considered. And risk can be higher for the kinds of operations those federal agencies conduct, compared to local police.

But Eells, along with several local policing leaders, said tactical training is still lacking at the federal level. “You have these folks that aren’t making the best field operational decisions,” Eells said. “They don’t have the right training and experience combination to be assessing risk appropriately.”

NBC News asked each of the Justice Department agencies to explain its arrest tactics. The U.S. marshals said they are working on improving how they apprehend fugitives. The DEA didn't respond. Spokespeople for the ATF and the FBI said that they conduct extensive planning before any apprehensions and that public safety is a top priority.

The FBI said in a statement that it follows “DOJ policies for enhanced clarity of law enforcement activities during operations.”

An ATF spokesperson said that “conducting thorough and transparent inquiries are key to holding ATF and our partners to the highest standards.”

Law enforcement experts also questioned federal officers' practice of shooting at moving vehicles. New York’s and other big cities’ police departments have long banned the tactic. Federal officers with the Justice Department are still allowed to shoot at moving vehicles when their lives are under threat.

Another tactic used frequently by federal officers — particularly the U.S. marshals — is to let a suspect get into a vehicle and then try to box it in, often with unmarked police vehicles. In several cases identified by NBC News, officers said they opened fire during attempts to box in vehicles, shooting the drivers, sometimes fatally, out of fear the vehicles were going to hit officers or bystanders.

Current and former big-city police officials questioned why federal officers still use the tactic. Kenneth Corey, an ex-New York police chief of department, said boxing in cars not only is dangerous, but it also requires extensive training to get right. “It’s much easier to just get out of the way and try to apprehend the suspect on another day,” he said.

A 2021 investigation by The Marshall Project found that one-quarter of marshals’ shootings involved firing at cars. NBC News found that 44% of shootings involved officers’ shooting at cars. In November, the marshals released their first public shooting review , finding that nearly half their shootings involved officers’ firing at cars.

Ronald Davis, the director of the Marshals Service, said in a statement that the agency is working on improving its tactics to mitigate risks to its officers and to communities. “Reducing deadly encounters for the safety of law enforcement and the communities we serve is a top priority,” he said.

Body cameras

In the past decade, local police leaders have embraced body cameras as crucial accountability and transparency tools, particularly for informing the public when things go wrong. More than 60% of local police departments use the devices, a Justice Department review recently found . But the Justice Department’s own officers rarely wear them, and the agency didn’t allow their use until 2021 .

The contrast has led to clashes between the department and big-city police chiefs.

Houston’s 6,000-person police force was an early adopter. In January 2018, as then-Police Chief Art Acevedo was lauding their use, FBI agents shot and killed a kidnapping victim in the city in a rescue gone wrong.

The details of the man’s death remain shrouded in secrecy. Family members still don’t know the name of the agent who killed Ulises Valladares, 47, a father who was abducted over a relative’s unpaid debt.

“He’s still free, like if nothing happened,” said Fidel Valladares, one of the victim’s brothers.

Body camera video could have revealed what happened that night. But none of the officers at the scene was wearing one — they were all federal agents.

An FBI SWAT team tracked Valladares to a house and tried to rescue him. One agent used his rifle butt to break a window. The agent felt someone on the other side grab his weapon and, fearing it would be taken from him and used on other agents entering the house, fired two shots, local police said.

Valladares was found on a couch, shot dead, with his hands bound in duct tape, local police said.

The autopsy report found no evidence of “close range firing” on Valladares’ skin, and the Houston Police Department, which conducted its own investigation, found a shell casing outside the house, far from the window.

“The agent’s account of what occurred was not supported by the physical evidence,” Acevedo said. “To this day, there has been no additional evidence that discredited our investigative findings.”

Federal prosecutors declined to file charges, and a local grand jury declined to indict the agent. The Valladares family said that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department communicated with them after the shooting. Both declined to answer questions about Valladares’ death.

“They are admitting they are guilty through their silence,” said another brother, Juan Carlos Garcia.

A year later, an Atlanta police officer on an FBI task force fatally shot an unarmed Black man. Though the shooting officer was a local cop assigned to work with the FBI, neither federal officers nor their local counterparts wore cameras. Local officers on task forces are bound to federal rules, which at the time still prohibited the use of body cameras.

In response, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields took the unusual step of pulling her officers from several federal task forces. 

Her move galvanized Acevedo, already angry over the Valladares shooting, who was serving as the leader of Major City Chiefs, an organization of national police leaders. Acevedo rallied other big-city chiefs to threaten to leave task forces if the Justice Department continued to ban body cameras.

The Justice Department relented, announcing in 2020 that local officers serving on federal task forces could use the devices. After Biden took office in 2021, it began allowing its own officers to use them — but only for planned arrests or during the execution of search warrants.

“The federal mentality isn’t one where openness and transparency is at the top of the philosophical repertoire,” Acevedo said. (Acevedo received his own criticism over transparency while he was Houston's police chief.)

Biden tried to tackle the issue further last year in an executive order about police reform, ordering agencies to “issue policies” within 90 days to equip federal officers with body cameras. But he stopped short of ordering their immediate use.

As of this fall, none of the Justice Department’s law enforcement agencies examined by NBC News have fully implemented the use of body cameras. Each agency said it is rolling them out across major cities or divisions, and the Marshals Service has published a map of its current use. The FBI added body-worn camera training to its new agent curriculum at Quantico, Virginia, this year, a spokesperson said. An ATF spokesperson said rollout is “dependent on funding.” The devices are expensive — since 2021, all four agencies have asked Congress for more than $206 million for their body camera programs, according to federal documents . They’ve received slightly over $84 million.

Meanwhile, tensions between local police leaders and federal officials remain. Local agencies that participate in Justice Department task forces can’t release video from such operations, even if their officers are the ones who record it, without permission from the Justice Department, because the video is considered federal record.

Sheriff Michael Chitwood of Volusia County, Florida, which includes Daytona Beach, doesn’t trust that permission to come quickly. “You are going to tell me when something goes down and the camera is running that you have no right to that footage?” he asked. “F--- you.”

Chitwood pulled his deputies off a U.S. marshals task force over the issue this year. “My community has a right to see what happens,” he said.

The FBI and the ATF said they release video when the media asks “as soon as practicable” after having reviewed it for redactions. The ATF added that under “exigent circumstances,” it releases video within 72 hours. The marshals and the DEA didn't respond to questions about body camera video.

Little oversight

Limited oversight has helped federal law enforcement agencies resist reform. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

In the aftermath of the police beating of motorist Rodney King Jr. in Los Angeles in 1991, Congress ordered the Justice Department to collect and publish annual counts of use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, without specifying whether the requirement applied to local or federal agencies, as part of the landmark 1994 crime bill.

Since then, many big-city police departments have begun publishing detailed information about officer-involved shootings. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has also ordered some departments to create searchable electronic databases with use-of-force reports and publish the results of misconduct probes.

But for years, the Justice Department paid little attention to the requirement that it collect and publish excessive force data. The agency did start a number of national data collection efforts over the decades, from household surveys about police interactions to use-of-force frequency, but many of them hit bureaucratic hurdles, compliance issues and delays. None fulfilled the requirement of the 1994 law, according to a 2021 Government Accountability Office report .

“The same government that’s holding state and local agencies accountable isn’t holding their own agencies accountable,” said Acevedo, now the interim police chief in Aurora, Colorado. “That smacks of being disingenuous and a double standard.”

Michael Bromwich, the Justice Department’s inspector general during the late 1990s, said he was never aware that the requirement existed and wasn’t surprised there were few consequences for it’s not being fulfilled. “It’s the product of historical forces where nobody has really said ‘do this or else,’ and it’s not clear what the ‘or else’ is,” Bromwich said.

The 2021 GAO report found that the department didn't have plans to meet the 1994 requirement. Presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Biden have all either signed laws or issued executive orders calling on federal officials to collect and publish more detailed use-of-force or misconduct data, to limited success.

The FBI, which recently launched a long-planned national use-of-force data collection program, told the GAO it wasn’t aware its data was supposed to fulfill the 1994 requirement, and FBI documentation showed it probably couldn't comply because it doesn't differentiate between excessive and acceptable use of force.

“Where is the accountability?” Gretta L. Goodwin, the director of the GAO’s Homeland Security and Justice team, asked in an interview. “How do you ensure that the officers under your command are engaging in such a way that they are not violating people’s rights?”

The Justice Department releases limited data about shootings by the ATF, the DEA, the FBI and the marshals. It began publishing data on arrest-related deaths starting with fiscal year 2016, but its annual report doesn't break down the manner of death by agency.

The FBI launched a national use-of-force database in 2019, which the four agencies report data to, but the public data shows only how many of the Justice Department agencies had “at least one” incident a month.

The marshals’ public shooting review, which covered 147 shootings in three years, included more detail, but it didn’t disclose how many people died in those incidents.

Biden’s executive order last year instructed all federal law enforcement agencies to start tracking various specific data points — including when officers use force and when they engage in misconduct.

A year later, a report from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights , a national civil rights group, found that work on that had begun but that only two of the 19 directives in Biden's order had been fully accomplished.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the executive order.

Meanwhile, Ulises Valladares’ family hopes a federal judge will force the FBI to reveal how he died. They want to know how a bound kidnapping victim could die at the hands of officers sent to rescue him.

“The FBI has two faces,” said Fidel Valladares, one of Ulises’ brothers. “They hide things when they do something bad, and when they do something good, they are heroes.”

“They aren’t transparent,” he said. “They aren’t clear. They are hypocrites.”

Hannah Rappleye and Alexandra Chaidez reported from West Virginia. Simone Weichselbaum, Adiel Kaplan and Jean Lee reported from New York. 

This article was originally published on

Defying presidents and Congress, the ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. marshals shroud their shootings in secrecy

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Definition of interim

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of interim  (Entry 2 of 2)

  • discontinuity
  • hiccough
  • intermission
  • interregnum
  • interruption
  • parenthesis
  • impermanent
  • provisional
  • provisionary

Examples of interim in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'interim.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Latin, adverb, meanwhile, from inter between — more at inter-

circa 1580, in the meaning defined above

1604, in the meaning defined above

Phrases Containing interim

  • in the interim

Dictionary Entries Near interim

interim certificate

Cite this Entry

“Interim.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of interim, legal definition, legal definition of interim.

Legal Definition of interim  (Entry 2 of 2)

More from Merriam-Webster on interim

Nglish: Translation of interim for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of interim for Arabic Speakers

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synonyms for interim

  • provisional
  • intervening
  • pro tempore
  • thrown-together

antonyms for interim

Most relevant

Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

How to use interim in a sentence

He was named interim president of the WDSF and convinced leadership to relocate its headquarters from Barcelona to Lausanne, Switzerland, where the IOC is based.

Medhurst, who will continue to host the Nationals postgame show on WJFK, was the station’s primary fill-in host in the afternoons after Chad Dukes was fired in late October and has served as the interim midday host since last month.

This would include the Oslo Accords, signed in 1995 as an interim agreement.

Everett Lott, interim director of the District Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the redesign is “an important milestone” in making the area safer.

Mayor Todd Gloria, then Council president who took over as interim mayor, decided to keep working with Hughes.

Importantly, as part of the interim plan, Iran has diluted or converted its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.

To date, much of the details of the diplomacy and even the interim deal between Iran and the West are shrouded in secrecy.

That means Hwang could have consolidated his position in the interim and now feels secure enough to travel for a day.

In the interim , I had to decide whether I was going to quit or be a professional and finish the scene.

That brings us to the next theory: Alex Vause is Nancy during her behind-bars interim .

Railways of course formed part of our inquiry, but they were dealt with in our interim Reports.

Richardotus, spoke somewhat more plainly, That he knew not what in this interim should be done against England.

During the interim Severne had found that his glooming was becoming altogether too realistic for his peace of mind.

He had just been betrothed, was not yet wedded; thought good to turn the interim to advantage in that way.

What the Tobacco-Parliament's specific insinuations and deliberations were, in this alarming interim , no Hansard gives us a hint.

Choose the synonym for classic

Words Related To interim

  • short-lived
  • breathing spell
  • intermission
  • time on one's hands
  • time to burn
  • time to kill
  • discontinuity
  • breathing space
  • interregnum
  • interruption
  • parenthesis
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an intervening time; interval; meantime: School doesn't start till September, but he's taking a Spanish class in the interim.

a temporary or provisional arrangement; stopgap; makeshift: As an interim, her summer job was pretty good.

Interim, Church History . any of three provisional arrangements for the settlement of religious differences between German Protestants and Roman Catholics during the Reformation.

for, during, belonging to, or connected with an intervening period of time; temporary; provisional: This is just an interim arrangement till office renovations are finished. She is the organization’s interim director while the board reviews applications for the role.

meanwhile .

Origin of interim

Words nearby interim.

  • intergranular
  • intergrowth
  • interhemispheric
  • Interim Standard Atmosphere
  • interinsurance
  • interior angle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use interim in a sentence

He was named interim president of the WDSF and convinced leadership to relocate its headquarters from Barcelona to Lausanne, Switzerland, where the IOC is based.

Medhurst, who will continue to host the Nationals postgame show on WJFK, was the station’s primary fill-in host in the afternoons after Chad Dukes was fired in late October and has served as the interim midday host since last month.

This would include the Oslo Accords, signed in 1995 as an interim agreement.

Everett Lott, interim director of the District Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the redesign is “an important milestone” in making the area safer.

Mayor Todd Gloria, then Council president who took over as interim mayor, decided to keep working with Hughes.

Importantly, as part of the interim plan, Iran has diluted or converted its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.

To date, much of the details of the diplomacy and even the interim deal between Iran and the West are shrouded in secrecy.

That means Hwang could have consolidated his position in the interim and now feels secure enough to travel for a day.

In the interim , I had to decide whether I was going to quit or be a professional and finish the scene.

That brings us to the next theory: Alex Vause is Nancy during her behind-bars interim .

Railways of course formed part of our inquiry, but they were dealt with in our interim Reports.

Richardotus, spoke somewhat more plainly, That he knew not what in this interim should be done against England.

During the interim Severne had found that his glooming was becoming altogether too realistic for his peace of mind.

He had just been betrothed, was not yet wedded; thought good to turn the interim to advantage in that way.

What the Tobacco-Parliament's specific insinuations and deliberations were, in this alarming interim , no Hansard gives us a hint.

British Dictionary definitions for interim (1 of 2)

/ ( ˈɪntərɪm ) /

(prenominal) temporary, provisional, or intervening : interim measures to deal with the emergency

the interim the intervening time; the meantime (esp in the phrase in the interim )

rare meantime

British Dictionary definitions for Interim (2 of 2)

any of three provisional arrangements made during the Reformation by the German emperor and Diet to regulate religious differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with interim

see in the interim.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


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