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DoD taps Apple exec to lead commercial tech adoption unit

Doug Beck definitely won't be transforming the US military into the iArmy, right?

The US Defense Department is getting a shiny new director for its Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) in the shape of Apple exec Doug Beck.

Per the Department of Defense, Beck's new role will involve overseeing efforts to adopt commercial technology for military use, as is the DIUs mission. The DoD also said Beck would serve as a senior advisor to the Defense Secretary and their Deputy on matters of tech innovation, competition and strategic impact.

Whether the DoD could finally dump the Microsoft HoloLens in favor of Apple's rumored augmented reality headset, field tactical iPads and issue Apple Watches to every new soldier, sailor, airman and marine is unknown. 

But Beck still gets to report to the big boss

Beck joined Apple in 2009 as the company's veep and GM for Northeast Asia before becoming the veep for North America and Northeast Asia, then veep for the whole of the Americas and Northeast Asia, and finally landing in a role as veep of worldwide education, heath and government, according to his LinkedIn profile

For his entire tenure at Apple, Beck has reported directly to CEO Tim Cook – one of just 20 executives at the company who do so. While his job titles don't make it explicitly clear, Beck served as one of the two sales chiefs for Apple, with his responsibilities being to institutional and government buyers.

Along with announcing Beck's new job, the DoD also said it was doing some restructuring at the DIU. Whereas the director of the unit has traditionally reported to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, it'll now "be under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense."

Great news for Beck and maybe for Apple too: Beck still gets to report to the actual boss at his new employer, and Apple gets a former executive in a position with a direct line to the Defense Secretary.

That's not to say Beck isn't actually qualified. He was formerly an officer in the US Navy Reserve for 26 years, having reached the rank of Captain, and did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with a joint special operations task force. He was also a unit commander and has past experience working with the DIU too, founding and leading its joint reserve component from 2015 to 2019.

Beck was previously appointed to the Secretary of State's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, was an executive advisor to three Naval operations chiefs, and has lectured on strategy and innovation at the Naval Postgraduate School. 

The timing couldn't be better

Apple has resisted the simple solution of layoffs in the midst of the tech industry's post-pandemic backslide, opting for things like bonus cuts and hiring freezes instead, but there's signs that it might be a losing fight.

According to unnamed sources who spoke with Business Insider, Apple is beginning to cut roles in its corporate retail division. Apple is reportedly giving employees the opportunity to apply for other jobs, à la Google and Meta, before being laid off.

While there's no indication Beck's job or other high-up positions in Apple leadership have been affected by the cuts, it could be the first sign that Apple is not immune to the slowdown witnessed by other tech firms. ®

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