Raj Shah, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot in the Air National Guard, has stepped down from his post as the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.
The post is an envoy to Silicon Valley.
The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is an initiative that began in 2015 to get high-end commercial technologies to the military more rapidly.
Shah took over the post upon the DIUx launching off to a rocky start with creator Ashton Carter, the former defense secretary.
The Indian American entrepreneur was credited with expanding DIUx from its initial office outpost near Silicon Valley to branches in Boston and Austin, Texas, and with establishing working relationships with the corporate princes of high tech, according to reports.
According to a report on federalnewsradio.com, Carter said in the fall of 2016 that Shah “and his team are already bringing in game-changing technologies that will benefit America’s warfighters. They’ve closed five deals in the last three months, totaling $3.5 million. It took an average of just over 50 days after they first interacted with a company to award these funds — that’s lightspeed for the Department of Defense, and appropriately so. And they have another 22 more projects in the pipeline, for an additional $65 million — in areas like network defense, autonomous seafaring drones, and virtual war-gaming.”
Shah also apparently worked successfully with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to ensure the future role of DIUx at the DoD. There was speculation when Mattis took office that he would scrap DIUx as an unwanted remnant of the previous administration, Military.com reported.
Mattis has praised the work of the initiative, the report said.
Defense News reported that Shah has handed control of the group over to U.S. Navy Capt. Sean Heritage, who will serve as the acting lead until a new managing partner is named, according to Defense Department spokeswoman Michelle Baldanza.
Shah will remain attached to DIUx in some capacity through his spot in the Air National Guard, Baldanza added.
Shah is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business where he earned an undergraduate degree and an M.B.A., respectively.
Having served as a fighter pilot from 2000 to 2012, Shah worked as a business analyst for McKinsey & Co. for a year before serving as a special assistant for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Additionally, he served as Morta Security's chief executive and Palo Alto Networks' senior director of cybersecurity. The San Francisco-based entrepreneur currently serves as the founder and board member of the Nanubhai Education Foundation.
(See earlier India-West story here.)