NavalX and Innovation Research with Captain Ben Van Buskirk

Capt. Ben Van Buskirk, former director of NavalX, joins ACME General Corp. to talk about bringing an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit to naval technology research.

Before leading NavalX, Capt. Van Buskirk helped establish the Strategic Warfighting Innovation Cell within the Navy’s Warfighting Development Directorate. Find him on Twitter at @BenVB3 and find NavalX at @USNavalX. Learn more about NavalX here.

ACME General: My guest today is Captain Benjamin Van Buskirk, the founding director of Naval X and the founding deputy director of the Office of Strategic Capital. Ben recently retired from the Navy after 25 years of service. Ben, welcome to Accelerate Defense.

Ben Van Buskirk: Hey Ken, it’s great to be here. My pleasure.

ACME General: As you say goodbye to Naval X, what are you most proud of in your tenure there?

BVB: You know I would say while I was in the ux it was actually getting the organization, some authorities, some people, and some money. Because as we all know, I don’t know if we all know, but my very first day at OSD, Office of Secretary Defense, when I went to go help stand up the Office of Strategic Capital last fall, very first day or very first brief was an idea without resources is called a hallucination. And when Naval X started, it was. It’s a startup organization and it was kind of see where you can be scrappy and it was very clear to me that we needed some level of Resourcing people and authorities in order to do anything. So I got us at least the ball moving on that to those together Well, I was at Naval X so that they could you know, at least not just be never any pickup game Which is with you know, all defense startups if you don’t have this

ACME General: There’s a corollary to that rule. I can’t remember the exact verbiage, but in the startup world, you know, ideas without resources sometimes provoke the most innovative problem solving. What are some examples of that from your time at Naval X where you were just wowed by the people you were working with at their ability to solve problems with a bare minimum of investment of resources, but just enough belief?

BVB: Yeah, I mean, I would start off with like, you know, when I reflect on it, the centers for adaptive warfighting. one of the Naval X lines of effort I think perfectly embodies that because it was a handful of motivated Marines who had learned scrum agile the methodology of how that works human-centered design thinking you know those different ways of thinking and had applied it to what I say abstracted the core ideas applied to what they’re doing the Marine Corps and like well we can really teach this and health. And so it was totally organic. And when I got to Naval X, it was just kind of providing care and feeding. And it was just awesome to see this continue to go and sprout and mostly through volunteers. It was people that believed in it. We would provide travel funding, support, general, like leadership, overhead. But it was the people themselves that just ran with us. And so they taught, I can’t remember the metrics, I mean, thousands courses and we had Army folks, Air Force folks, you know, across the gamut teaching folks different ways of thinking, completely grown organically on a Schuster and budget and it’s still going and I think that if we were to like for some reasons, you know, the funding were to dry out and stop it, they would still find a way to survive because it’s just it’s given there’s a demand there and it’s given folks something they need. So that’s just an example. I really like the Centers for Adaptive Warfighting. powerful tools that those of us that have learned it, I learned it at VMware when I was in industry. And that you can apply these industry best practices, you know, tweak it a bit and see what happens in the military.

ACME General: Do you envision a day when that mindset that you just described at the Center for Adaptive Warfighting becomes endemic? I mean, Naval X describes itself as an innovation and agility cell enabling people to think differently and deliver more effective solutions to the warfighter. Can that entrepreneurial spirit be scaled, be replicated so broadly that Naval X works itself out of business? or will a super connector always be required?

BVB: Well, that was our goal was if we no longer need to exist and just being the way. Can it happen? Yes. Will it happen? Probably not. Just being honest. Well, it goes. So I will go back to a comment. This was back in twenty nineteen. I was a fellow visiting Microsoft up in Seattle. And it was seven of us kind of wait in between meetings and. Sashi Nadella. He had some time on a schedule. He’s like, you’ve got an hour, let’s talk about whatever you want to talk about. And he had said that, you know, I asked him how he turned Microsoft around during his time. Completely changed the focus of the company. You know, how do you take something that was like the boutique side thing and turn it into the way? And he said, well he did it. It was really hard. And that’s a big idea. Everyone wants to create the go do your innovation stuff without actually touching the core of who the organization is. And he had said that’s just innovation theater. That’s being cool by association. If you really want to change, you need to take the way that was the innovation way and make it the core of who you are. And that’s what they did when they turned into a cloud company. He had said that. The cloud people, Azure, were sort of like the wild guys on the side. And he was like, we had to make it the core of who we were. So that was really hard. And I won’t get into more details on how that happened, very top and a lot of work and a lot of resources and you’re gonna make a lot of people mad you know a lot of people left Microsoft when you did that you had to hire new people so there’s a whole lot that goes into doing that level of organizational change so the question is could we with the right it would take a lot of firepower to do it but would we want to that’s a whole other thing so high risk you know it’s not talking about a company we’re talking about you know the United States Navy. And so I think there’s a reason to be a little more risk averse, but could you? Yes, with the right level of leadership.

ACME General: What are the biggest challenges to affecting that kind of innovation contagion? Is it primarily risk aversion? Is it lack of awareness? Those are fundamentally different challenges. In fact, they’re in opposition. What were the biggest obstacles you faced in spreading the way, as you’ve put it?

BVB: I would say, and this goes back to my experience as a squadron commander also, that part of it is the nature of who we are. And Hondo Gertzen said this once, if it flies or floats or sinks, you’ve got to be careful with your innovation, as we saw with the Titan a few weeks ago. There are certain things that you don’t want to be innovative on as an aviator. Like, it’s hard to, and I found this in my squadron. I wanted to think of new ways of doing things in certain aspects of squadron life and how we did our processes and such. And it worked, but then you have to turn it off when you go out to the aircraft. Because it’s like, okay, I don’t want innovation on the deck of, on the flight deck of the carrier at night. Like, we know how to do it. Don’t reinvent the wheel. You’re going to get yourself killed. And so I think in the military, there’s, that’s one of the big challenges. It is like, and if there’s a place for innovation and a place not to be, and to be able to do it in the right location with the right people at the right time so you don’t end up killing yourself or hurting somebody. And it’s very hard to draw those lines to say we’re going to have an innovative mindset in one situation, but okay, now do it by the book. So I mean it’s challenging. I don’t know if that answers your question,

ACME General: Well, no, it does.

BVB: But it’s hard. There’s a place for it. Dev group does a ton of innovation, Top Gun. They do great, and there’s people that do the innovative work. It’s very hard to scale it in a way that makes a lot of sense. And so I think with our leadership, you’re taking high risk with these types of things. But I do think there have been leadership that really want to do it and want to scale some of these. And then it just comes into a resourcing problem, work. Think of how you would scale this like what we did across the Navy. I mean that’s training, that’s you know follow through, expertise, reinforcement, all those things to change.

ACME General: That is a great explanation of some of the practical hurdles in spreading the innovation mindset. Let’s pan way out. Do you think about some of the ethical implications of innovation? Something that we really haven’t had to think about often, but we have new iterations of Manhattan projects happening in garage labs right now. AI, how much did the ethics of innovation factor into your leadership?

BVB: save at least from My perspective at Naval X really wasn’t really in my wheelhouse. I do recall when I was on the Navy staff on that, there were lots of discussions about ethical use of AI and putting together some sort of policies behind it. So it was always a thing. You know, got to have a war fighter in the loop. You’re not going to go fully autonomous. So I mean, I know those are, you know, big and it affects our acquisition decisions and what we acquire and you always got to have a war fighter in the loop. At the Office of Strategic Capital, other ethical issues are more that we’re trying to build greater partnerships with industry. At Naval X, we did a little of that too, or a lot of it. Building better relationships with non-traditional industry partners to better understand how each other worked, to break down and address those areas of friction that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. And similarly with OSC, it is about partnering with private capital to get the stuff we need done. of ethical, aren’t you called minefields there, but we just do it very carefully and deliberately. So I think that’s answering your question. You always want to do it ethically because nothing will end a great idea more than some ethical labs.

ACME General: How much were those areas of friction that you describe between DOD and the commercial sector due to cultural barriers? I mean, some of it surely was legal and legislative, but I imagine a lot of it was just language, right?

BVB: I think culture is the biggest one. You look at the, you take a bunch of 06, I use 06 as an example, a bunch of 06 career.

ACME General: No, we beat up on them here too. That’s fine.

BVB: I know I used to rip on 06s all the time. Sorry to all my 06 friends, but they always bugged the heck out of me and I became one. But you realize you have a certain way of thinking and if you take a group of 10 standard 06s, put them in a room with 10 equivalent of them in venture or private equity, they’re going to think each other a little weird. to break down. It’s incentives. It’s completely different incentive structures. And I think you said it really well. It’s a lack of understanding of just things that you, anyone in industry would think, or in the startup world for example, think is fundamental, like Runway, a Series A, Series B. There are many folks that if, you know, we’ve been in the, the military is one of the few organizations that you go and then you stand. And this is a whole other topic we could talk about, about how to fix that. But when you’ve been, you know, I flew helicopters for 20 years and then I was very fortunate to have done an industry fellowship and then this great work with Naval X and OSC and working with industry. But it was like, I’m sort of unique in that. A lot of folks just, it’s completely foreign. Similarly to industry folks, industry, whether it’s VC or startups, on the incentive structure for the military. You’re like, oh, you’re just so slow, it takes forever. Well, there’s a reason why it’s slow and takes forever because there isn’t a lot of incentive if you’re a contracting officer to move fast. There is incentive to not screw up, though. Same thing with financial management and budgeting. It’s just very, very different. And the most important thing is to understand, in my mind, that there are cultural differences. And if you understand each other, then you’re that behavior you can figure out ways to work together better.

ACME General: What are some of the best tricks you learned for bridging that cultural gap? Maybe it’s, I don’t know, a program that you think needs to be scaled. I don’t know, maybe it’s a team building exercise. What were some of your tricks for getting those oh sixes and those innovators to actually communicate?

BVB: So, the number one best thing we did. is doing these sort of industry exchanges. So luckily we have quite a few of them, whether it’s called the Tour with Industry or Industry Exchange Program. I was the Secretary of Defense Executive Fellow, so it’s an OSD program for more senior folks. It is, or Shift does a great, they have Shift, it’s a private company, and they run a program of getting service members into startups and VCs just for anywhere from I think six months to a year, sometimes smaller. school, like go hang out with the other people. That’s the number one thing, showing up. And just, it was actually another great industry leader, we were at an event in New York with finance and he was like, the fact that you’re here is like 90% of the battle. Like, just show up. And there is a cultural, I would say barrier to that, where we aren’t, there’s this sort of, just going and meeting with industry, there’s, you have to be careful. There’s a lot of rules around it. And so some folks are just like I’m just, I don’t like meeting with industry because it’s an ethical landmine I don’t even want to talk. I don’t want to go to lunch. It’s just somebody could see it and so they’re because of the Perception of being too close and unfortunately I think creates a cultural barrier as I’d say behind the walls of the Pentagon and outside the walls of Pentagon But number one, I think the best thing you can do is continue to do more cross pollination things like of folks have interested if we could do the reverse of getting folks from industry come spend a year in the pentagon and understand how we operate. It would be very valuable but we haven’t been able to figure out how to do that in a way that doesn’t provide conflict of interest but I think that’s the number one thing going out getting outside building relationships and understanding how from the other person’s perspective how they operate and then that’s 90 percent of it right there.

ACME General: We’ve been talking about 06s and industry leaders. How do innovation cells like Naval X make sure that they are hearing what the actual warfighters need? Because that is a thin and winding thread between the front lines and the Pentagon and the industry decision makers. How do you stay connected?

BVB: uh… so Naval X actually has a program that really excited about it because i turned over Naval X a little over a year ago uh… before i went to OSC and a budding program we called innovation navigators which was that idea of taking Naval x folks getting you know when people come in same thing even when somebody comes in detail to like a place like Naval x they have to learn it was a huge learning curve for me coming from an operational guy to have him learn acquisition Navy research works understand like I need to know what a warfare center was most of them don’t know what a warfare center is there this network of federal labs and have all these smart engineers doing great things and but yet Naval Xers come from all these places so you have to learn how to answer a question though. Innovation navigators just take people understand how that this ecosystem works to go out and get out and work with the fleets, numbered fleets, pack fleet we talked about task force 59 I’m sure you’ve heard of them on the our folks out so be their ears, listen to what their challenges are, and help bridge that gap back to the building. I say the building, the Pentagon, and the rights connect to those stakeholders because that’s so often what’s missing. Similar to an industry folks when I was at Naval X, they said the number one issue is I don’t know who would he even talk to. It’s the problem inside the DOD also is I’m not sure who to talk to, especially if I’m like an operator, and now. And that’s their job. As they go out, they go forward. They talk to the end users and understand their problems and help translate that to the right people in the building to make it work. But it’s a small group, small team, and I’d love to scale it more. It just takes time.

ACME General: We had Mike Brasseur on the show a while back talking about Task Force 5.9 and sail drone and some of those really cool innovations. That was the week that I believe the Iranians tried to grab one of their drones and they were in high gear dealing with that. So very cool that you are out there with them. How do you stay on the… the bleeding edge of tech innovation. How do you stay aware of what is happening in labs and make sure you’re connecting it with the realities of what’s happening downrange?

BVB: It’s really hard. It is when I first got to NavelX. So this was a few years back. I said, all right, who has awareness of all the stuff going on in the labs? Because there’s this innovation everywhere. And you got all these problems. How do we, can I just see like what the labs are working on? And the answer was no. You don’t see everything they’re working on. People keep those cards pretty close. And so I ended up pulling up the chain. It’s like, yeah, a very high official, the secretariat is really the one level of understanding of what’s actually happening in the labs. I could never crack that code because going into incentives, the labs are being paid to do great work and there’s not a whole lot of incentive to share what your budgets are and what you’re working on specifically with other labs and with the outside. But they’re doing great work. There’s so much innovation going on in the federal labs that kind of like requirements. all the requirements, nobody knows all the requirements, it’s decentralized. And where can you go see it? Well you can’t just go see it, it’s classified. There’s a lot of compartmentalization in R&D and in our requirements that make it even more difficult both internally and externally to kind of connect all the dots. So I know it’s sort of a cop-out on that answer but it is very hard, it’s really finding the right people to talk to at these labs that have, there are people, they have the information and it’s a matter of getting them to work together and that’s just that’s the challenge.

ACME General: without getting either of us into trouble. What are some of the most exciting innovations coming up? What are some of the things that you worked on at Naval X that are coming down the pike?

BVB: yeah, I mean, I just, I still think going back to what Mike Bresuer said, and when the Navy stood up, the Unmanned Task Force and Office of Native Research started their scout program at about the same time Task Force 59 stood up. I supported those with my folks at Naval X because I believed there’s a lot going on in unmanned systems that we need to get after for the future of war fighting. And what unmanned systems will of course include cloud computing. will include AI, will include networking. I doubled down on Unmanned Systems when I was at Naval X that I sent my folks to go support those organizations. And yeah, multiple conversations with Michael Bresuer on, hey, you’re doing the innovation there. We need to figure out how to get it now into the big ugly. As I call it, the acquisition and budgeting and all that kind of stuff. Because they’re out there just going with what they can as fast as they can with the money they have. But as you all know, you can do that. that doesn’t lead to a transition. And so we’re, yeah, a lot of working on how do we get the work that’s happening out there and then now continue it so that these companies, it’s not just showing up and doing exercise, but actually to recurring revenue, to contracts, and all that kind of stuff. So I do think Unmanned Systems and everything that goes around with that is really exciting to me. I’ll also say, and this isn’t super sexy, but there’s a lot of opportunity office that people just kind of don’t get after. Think of what chat GPT or Google Bard or all these other language processing and other pretty advanced AIs could do for some of our back office work, whether it’s budgeting, financing, contracting, all these things that are super intensive, very admin intensive. I think there’s an opportunity there. And I know there are some, I just talked to a great company yesterday, there are companies that are out there that are like, we can think of what we could do. If you could get contracting to take a third of the time because you have a properly trained AI to check documents make sure they’re right Identifying issues and remove the churn in the bureaucratic turn The checking of things so I think the back office is a huge opportunity. It’s just a matter just doing it

ACME General: Well, that’s the optimistic view. What are your biggest fears, both near term and over the horizon, when you look at these technologies, unmanned AI, everything our adversaries are developing at the same pace or in some cases faster than we are.

BVB: Well, and just like only this is just my personal opinion on it We have our ethical standards a lot of our adversaries don’t have the same ethical standards And so it’s just a matter of time before you’re gonna have fully autonomous weapons with kinetic You know kill capability without a human in the loop, and they’re just gonna be you know that’s Everything we always talk about sky and head and Terminator and all that it and how do you prevent that from happening and then I would say I don’t have any super unique thoughts on that other than yeah somebody’s gonna do it and what do you do that concerns me.

ACME General: What can we learn from how this is playing out in real time in Ukraine? I am sure that you and people in your orbit are watching that very closely. What are some of the biggest lessons?

BVB: Well, I would say, you know, of course there’s awesome ones at the high side and the class level. Totally unclassed, for big lessons for me it’s not terrible but it’s that the idea of lightning campaign just proven over and over again let’s create and it’ll work. We talked about a macular destruction. We did, you know, shock and awe. Russia tried to do this quickly it seems like the old adage that all wars turn into wars of attrition is playing itself out again.So from a philosophy, i’d say from a strategic standpoint don’t expect a war to happen quickly, that it’s going to drag on and it’s going to be high attrition and it’s usually going to end up just being that way. I think it’s yet to determine the impact, I mean there’s been impact of advanced technology on the battlefield with things like what is it the space exes system for communication and then course and systems uh… have been helping immensely uh… but it’s so goes back to the same logistics uh… artillery is king ammunition people it’s kind of amazing actually it’s more the same willingness to fight alliances strangely a lot of the traditional warfighting challenges.

ACME General: That is, it’s true. What is old is new again. It’s amazing that we are seeing World War One play out in Europe.

BVB: Yeah.

ACME General: Let’s pivot to strategic capital. We had Mark Finelli and Sam Cole on the show talking about it. I would love you to share with us the warfighter’s perspective on the importance of strategic capital. And I’m going to bias your answer here because. I suspect that the warfighter writ large, you accepted, does not have a perspective on this because we have no idea how massive our advantage as a nation in this area is, much less how to leverage it. How should we be thinking about strategic capital? Is there any real awareness outside of your small orbit of the importance of that?

BVB: Um… So I will start answering this one with, yeah, the war fighter perspective is you’re so busy and it reminds me of most of my career was spent at the tip of the spears of war. It’s just like, I gotta get my planes working. I’ve gotta deploy. I’ve gotta get the dudes to medical. I’ve gotta like get my aircraft up. I gotta get this mission done. And so you’re completely focused on the now out forward. times when you know I experienced this when folks come out and say oh what do you need I’m like you know what did Ford say if you asked the customer they wanted to say a faster horse I’m like okay I need this isn’t this to get what I need done today and there is this I don’t know just a dynamic between what is the future war need and the big thinking and strategic capital and then the fight tonight and you see it play out all the time between the combatant out in Europe that have the fight tonight and are screaming to DC for resources and then we’re all have folks in DC that are looking at the future and in other places on like well say how do you balance that. So the warfighter perspective is almost always like here’s what I need now and unfortunately you know the creative you know you’d be very creative with what you have out at the front but I didn’t find I had a lot of time to really be thinking about big conceptual things out there kind of wasn’t my job. It was like hey the guy’s to DC I came in and did the war games and all you just don’t have time to do it it’s so bogged down with the day to day so the strategic capital thing it’s at most folks for and I think just aren’t even thinking about it then I just give me stuff I need and that’s where I think there’s some power there is there’s a lot of commercial technology to will use dual impact is what a lot of folks say that can really solve these warfighter problems they just don’t realize it they don’t see the same thing you’re also like I was Japan for many years like I’m Like I don’t even see this stuff. Oh, you don’t have internet on the ship either So I mean it’s just like you’re like on this island and so you don’t know what’s even out there And so where it’s a matter of the I think there’s great tech. It’s just getting it in the hands of warfares So I think what like Michael Brasseur did is these exercises just get it there get the tech there So that the warfares go. Oh, I didn’t know what this could do. This solves my problem. That’s like 90% of it. So the private capital strategic capital part is alright. How do we bridge that? Let’s get capital flowing in this technology and get it in the hands of warfighters. They can mess with it and see if it works and then also be that bridge of what do they really need? And that’s a whole other subject. What do we need?

ACME General: How do you envision Naval X’s role evolving over the next 10 years?

BVB: What? me personally would like to see is there’s been uh… familiar with the new legislation in the a there’s wonderful legislation about creating and nice and i think it was just for this essentially like uh… with d i u is the head is pretty much a billion dollar hedge fund to go to innovative technology and each service will have their own and she could go for the it’s Each service will have their own essentially knife organization that is a with a pile of money to go Get that commercial innovative technology and get it moving. So think of it like just a parallel pathway Not destroying what we already have, you know, we’re not changing aircraft carriers or joint strike fighters But it’s to get that innovative tech in and so I think it’s really good So what do I see Naval X doing? What I would love to see is seeing some of these organizations like Naval X young men task force task force 15 I’m just talking from a Navy standpoint. We have all this innovation going on. Like, okay, go to like 2.0. Like combine it in a way that supports this legislation using all the things we’ve learned and that worked and didn’t work from the various innovation organizations and then go do what the Congress tells us to do and build this organization with the right people and the knowledge. And so sort of like a, I would love to see that, is that sort of graduation to a newer organization that kind of has learned and understands and has seen what works and what doesn’t to then do what this country needs us to do. So I very much hope that legislation stays in the vote.

ACME General: I just looked it up. It’s the non-traditional innovation fielding enterprise comprised of DIU and service level leads. We may do a show on it. I was only somewhat aware, but good to get your endorsement of that.

BVB: It’s really absolutely fantastic kudos shout out to the folks on the hill wrote that legislation reforms and i think it’s can be game-changing powerful that won’t happen that would never something is like that would never happen congressional leadership uh… since you see you can try and do it from inside the bureaucracy.

ACME General: Well, it’s good to hear that assessment because this is a question I often ask on other shows. Is a democracy with two year election cycles really suited to a tech economy and a threat regime that has to deal with very complicated threats that you really can’t educate the public about that has to deal with over the horizon threats that people worrying about their next election have no incentive to care about. It sounds like there are examples of this working. How would you rate your faith in our ability societally to adapt to these incredibly complicated challenges coming up?

BVB: Well, um, my brother. he was a he’s in tech but at the time he was my younger brother’s 20 years ago he was an undergrad studying journalism at Emerson so he and he had mentioned when you look at history the Americans people don’t like really get after it until it turns into a crisis but when it happens America responds and that’s shown over and over again so going to this threat and things needed to get real and happen, the country would respond. So taking it a step down, okay, like what you’re saying, I think there are a lot of folks in our country that think everything’s fine, that red is not a threat, we’re good to go, don’t have to worry about it. So this kind of goes to my sales training, okay well is it the customer, in this case the American people’s fault, that we have not clearly articulated the problems that we’re leaving, So I’m on my way out of the Navy here. We have to be able to explain to the American people why this is a problem in this world and they need to support our development and fund these projects that we need to do to keep the war fighters successful, to win. And that’s what it comes down to is winning wars from a defense perspective and if we are not getting that message across, if the American people are like, I don’t get it, we need to do a better job of communicating the challenge. colleges. And some of it will be self-evident, you know, if I do believe it. If it becomes an existential crisis, the American people will look up and be like, oh crap, my way of life is now threatened, we’ll do what we need to do. So, and we’ve seen that in the acquisition system too. When folks were kids, were dying every day due to IEDs, the bureaucracy got its acting gear and created MRAP. So it’ll work in a crisis. It’s a matter of how do we make it so the pre-crisis level doesn’t turn into a crisis by moving faster. That’s the challenge and I think this legislation gets after that.

ACME General: I think that MRAP example is very telling because it sure as heck was a crisis and wouldn’t it be great if we figured out how to anticipate those threats before we had bodies piling up. What advice do you have for the next Naval X Director and leaders at that level within DOD innovation?

BVB: So. I turned over, so when I turned over Naval X Captain Casey Ploot took over, and he’s, I think he’s there a little bit longer, and then of course my leaving of OSC. So folks coming into the leadership roles and the innovation space and defense, what advice do I have? Resilience is lonely. It is hard. So that’s the advice, is you’re not going to get any, not many pats on the backs. Everyone’s going to be mad at you. And I was warned of this advice is just be ready. I remember we were having just a terrible day when Elon Musk mentioned his chewing glass and staring at the abyss of death. That is like half of our days in the defense innovation space because you are fighting, fighting is the right word, you’re challenging assumptions and doing things differently than one of the largest bureaucracies on the planet. They have a way of doing things and you’re challenging core aspects of who they are. It’s hard to do that. when your own peers are like I just don’t get it why are you doing this and so find champions, that’s my advice. And if you don’t, and it’s the very first thing I was told, and exactly what Sasha Nadella and every other CEO I talked to, was you need senior level advocacy to support you, or else you are just done. It’s a waste of time. And so we saw it well. We had the support from the SECDEF when we stood up OS, Office of U.S. Capital, because you need it. And when I had Naval X Secretary Geertz, you need those advocates to help break down those barriers. And I’d say guys like Admiral Mesher, I see now was in strip absolute instrumental in a personal way of supporting us and doing this hard work because It’s not the normal path for your senior military folks It’s you stick to the path go continue to do command and so it’s countercultural. It’s very challenging It’s lonely, but find those advocates. That’s the number one senior level four-star level advocacy.

ACME General: Last question. What advice do you have for young warfighters when it comes to innovation?

BVB: I would say I proved it. I was able to, after my command tour, go into this innovation space and… I had a great time, wouldn’t do anything else. It was hard, yeah. But you can do it. It’s just really hard. And there have been a handful of enlisted folks that have done this, where they have said, I want to get into this innovation space and do things differently. And it may, similar to us, your E7s aren’t gonna like it. Your leadership’s not gonna get it. You probably aren’t gonna promote because the system doesn’t like it. But you can do it. I’d say, you can do it. But the culture, there are getting more. You have places where you can go and not just leave. Because that’s what happens. People are just getting mad at me leaving because they say there’s nowhere for me to go in this organization if I want to challenge things or doing this quote innovation stuff. We have places now, vice getting out. And I will say another option is the reserves are a really cool opportunity. I’m sure Mike Tott Bresser talked about it. We’re leveraging the reserve force is huge. of go do your thing, do your private job, and then you can come back and help in certain ways and reserve this incredibly powerful opportunity to be in the innovation space.

ACME General: Well, Ben, it’s been great having you on. Thanks so much for making it happen and enjoy terminal leave.

BVB: I will, thanks Ken, I really appreciate it. Great conversation.

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