Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Crystal City, Virginia is a small team of men and women who are working to completely transform the Department of Defense. Created in October of 2016, MD5 is a program office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked with creating new communities of innovators to solve national security problems. We do this by partnering with those individuals who are typically not associated with the DoD. These include students, entrepreneurs, university professors, startup companies, venture capital communities, city governments, and private accelerators/incubators. We collaborate with our above partners to bring solutions to the national security problems of our customer, the DoD.MD5 is organized into three distinct yet integrated portfolios: Education, Collaboration and Acceleration. The Education portfolio is tasked with building a DoD workforce that has strong innovation skills and an improved problem framing capacity. The Collaboration portfolio helps to develop the novel solutions that are put forth by our partners in addition to creating new communities of innovators. Lastly, the Acceleration portfolio works to improve the viability of dual-use ventures and solutions for defense market entry.
As an Innovation Fellow with MD5 I have had the opportunity to work at the headquarters located in Crystal City. My tasks over the summer have ranged from writing policy recommendations for how the program conducts itself to meeting with various DoD entities to better understand the problems they face. I have been tasked with constantly seeking more innovative and streamlined ways in which MD5 can complete its mission. By enabling better communication processes, developing publications, consolidating and distributing workflows, and optimizing MD5’s vast troves of data, I am helping MD5 team members to better serve our customer.
Before coming to work for MD5 I had little understanding as to what innovation truly meant. Many times the word is used as a buzzword that few people efficiently know how to employ. MD5 actualizes this abstract concept by teaching hard skills relating to Human Centered Design (HCD), Lean Launch Pad (LLP), Mission Model Canvas (MMC), and Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With these skills the DoD will undoubtedly hold its competitive edge in the 21st century.
Jacob Wisenbaker is a recent graduate of the MAIR program.