From Pathfinder to Program

When the US Navy needed a new way to apply commercial tech to its most pressing challenges, they turned to BMNT. The result was a reliable and disciplined approach for Navy leadership to innovate at scale.


Not since World War II has the U.S. Navy faced a more urgent need for new technologies to counter rising threats, like artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. The delivery of new capabilities can no longer take years. It has to happen in weeks or months.

In 2021, Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), created a pilot project called the Unmanned Task Force (UTF). The purpose was to figure out how to rapidly solve operational needs like maritime domain awareness with commercial technology.

Yet with the UTF having dozens of new stakeholders pulled from different Navy organizations and specialties, finding a way forward quickly became an unexpected challenge. The UTF realized that to go faster they had to get on the same page. That’s when the CNO and UTF leaders Michael Stewart and Jason Stack turned to BMNT.

Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Boan | 230108-N-UL352-1211 ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 8, 2023)


Using BMNT’s disciplined Innovation Pipeline as the foundation, we designed and introduced the Innovation Navigators Course to establish a common language and framework for the UTF to operate. This framework helped the group hone in on the right operational needs, sourced directly from the combatant commanders, so the focus was on the most important concerns. A key aspect was to bring disconnected stakeholders together in order to move problems forward more quickly. By having representatives from legal, policy, warfighting, technology and finance to deliberate potential solutions, the group was able to zero in on solutions that could be fielded within the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), the military’s primary planning tool that projects five years into the future.

UTF learned quickly that properly focusing on problem definition, and intentionally gathering a diverse team of experts, accelerated problem-solution matching so that only those ideas that could solve the problem in a relatively short time interval were advanced. 

THE IMPACT - Scaling what works

The UTF proved that a disciplined approach to innovation can accelerate the integration of new technology by putting the challenges of transition at the center of everything it did. The successful demonstration has led to even more responsibility and higher profile projects. 

In September, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro disbanded the UTF and created the Disruptive Capabilities Office (DCO). This new office will scale the UTF approach beyond a pilot project. As part of the ambitious Replicator initiative set by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, DCO will work with the Defense Innovation Unit and Marine Corps Rapid Capabilities Office to create thousands of new autonomous systems within two years. It’s a critical mission to deter the Chinese leadership from launching an invasion of Taiwan and preserve national and economic security in the Pacific.