Military and tech: Defense Innovation Unit opens in Chicago

The U.S. Department of Defense is moving into Chicago, hoping to tap into the growing tech sector to aid military innovation.

There are high hopes for the Defense Innovation Unit opening in Chicago. It's a place to mix the military with tech-savvy innovators like only the Midwest can.

"I think that secret sauce for the Midwest is that Midwest work ethic, the go to it," said Major General Richard Neely, Director of the Illinois Department of Military Affairs.

Military, political, business and education leaders all came together to celebrate the opening on Thursday because they all have a stake. The Department of Defense is opening its new office in Chicago where military members will engage with entrepreneurs and innovators to solve national security issues. Don't think big tanks and planes. This is about getting troops ready with cyber technology, artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, and more for modern warfare.

"We're putting our troops at risk of losing battles if we don't invest in the technology that will help us compete in the next century's battlefield," said Senator Tammy Duckworth, (D) Illinois.


For city and state leaders this means new job plus changing the reputation of Chicago and Illinois.

"We will be able to further enhance our status as a leader for 21st century innovation," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"It also means more jobs for the people who live here and more reasons for out of state experts, scientists to come here," said Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Already in Ukraine, technology created at other Defense Innovation Units in the U.S. has been used, such as secure communications and satellite imagery.

"A game changer in terms of warfare. This kind of commercial technologies we need are being produced by entrepreneurs around the country," said Mike Brown, Director of the Defense Innovation Unit.

And the new office is supposed to make it faster and easier for Midwest companies to get those lucrative Department of Defense contracts.