Pentagon IP Office Lacks Support, Expertise: GAO

Tech. Sgt. Eric Dorn, an aerospace propulsion craftsman with the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, references Air Force technical data with students with the Milwaukee Area Technical College Feb. 25. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jenna Lenski/Released)

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon needs to bulk up a unique office focused on intellectual property if it hopes to effectively manage the issues — and money — involved in such a critical driver of innovation, a new report by government auditors found.

The report, produced in response to a congressional inquiry and published on Tuesday, focuses on a small team, dubbed the IP Cadre, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. That group was first established in 2019 by then-Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord, but the Government Accountability Office found the military has not “fully addressed how the IP Cadre … will fulfill all of its responsibilities.”

The IP Cadre is facing hiring difficulties because the Pentagon is only planning to fund four of the five positions in that office through 2023, according to GAO. The staff lacks expertise in key areas of IP such as valuation and financial analysis. (DOD is currently running a pilot project to “study valuation strategies,” GAO’s report adds.)

The IP Cadre are also expected to work with the larger pool of IP experts across the military, but the Pentagon “has not yet detailed how the director of IP cadre and the OSD team will work with these other experts.”

Philip Rodgers, a senior official in the office of the under secretary for defense, responding for the Pentagon, agreed with the four recommendations GAO offered. Those recommendations included providing “clarifying guidance regarding the acquisition and licensing of detailed manufacturing and process data” in a new guidebook expected to be published early next year.

Rodgers agreed with GAO’s recommendation to finalize the number of staffers and types of expertise needed in the office but defended the temporary positions as necessary for a “preliminary assessment.”

“Prior to the expiration of the OSD IP Cadre temporary positions in July 2023, the OSD and DoD component heads will determine the appropriate staffing and resourcing levels in the OSD IP Cadre and the other OSD and DoD components, to implement the DOD’s federated approach beyond July 2023,” he wrote.

Another recommendation urged the department to coordinate with the president of Defense Acquisition University, the Pentagon’s educational institution for acquisition professionals, on “IP related tasks that DAU should undertake between 2023 and 2025.”

The last recommendation suggested the director of the IP Cadre office develop additional guidance that would be of use to DOD personnel deal with IP issues.

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