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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Defense Department announced that it’s making the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental — its unit in charge of starting pilot programs with Silicon Valley tech companies — a permanent fixture.

Why it matters: Some tech companies are reckoning with their military relationships, which sometimes raise questions among progressive-leaning tech workforces. That’s not fazing the Pentagon — and that means these controversies are likely to multiply.

What they’re saying: “Since its inception, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) has generated meaningful outcomes for the Department and is a proven, valuable asset to the DoD,” wrote Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in a memo. “DIU remains vital to fostering innovation across the Department and transforming the way DoD builds a more lethal force.”

The backstory: A brainchild of then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the unit was first created in 2015 and rebooted the following year with an additional office in Boston (and later Austin and DC, too), new leadership and reporting structure.

  • Carter said he moved to have the unit report directly to him in part to make it more speedy and agile to better cater to Silicon Valley’s tech culture.

DIUx continued to face some challenges. Even with the changes, some tech entrepreneurs remained frustrated with the slow pace, and a congressional subcommittee wanted more oversight over the unit's spending.

The bigger picture: The unit is only one of a number of defense and intelligence outposts in Silicon Valley aimed at forging relationships with the local industry.

  • The CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, was established in 1999, and to date has invested in dozens of companies, including Keyhole, which was acquired by Google in 2004 and became Google Earth.
  • Also in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was opening a satellite office in Silicon Valley to be closer to cybersecurity companies and to try to recruit local talent from the private sector.

Go deeper

The E-commerce shopping spree

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Retailers have gotten really good at selling stuff online. So much so, investors want them to separate from the business units that do just that.

Why it matters: Spinning off these crown jewels may jeopardize both the physical and e-commerce sides of the companies in the long run by breaking the benefits of hybrid operations, analysts say.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. envoy to visit Sudan as "most dangerous" crisis intensifies

The sit-in in Khartoum. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty

U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman will visit Khartoum this week amid what Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has called the “worst and most dangerous" crisis of Sudan’s transition to democracy, two sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.

Driving the news: Roughly 2,000-3,000 people had joined a sit-in in Khartoum as of this afternoon, per Reuters, after protesters massed over the weekend to call on the military to bring down the government. The protests came just four weeks after a failed military coup.

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.