The Defense Department’s new digital marketplace connecting vetted investors with firms developing emerging and critical technologies went live in December, Pentagon officials announced Wednesday.
Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord during a press briefing described the Trusted Capital Digital Marketplace, or TCDM, as a matchmaking platform that will improve supply chain resiliency by crowding out capital originating from adversarial nations with vetted sources of domestic funding. The Trusted Capital program was originally announced in 2019.
“The Trusted Capital initiative is a DOD-led, whole-of-government system of systems that supports trusted partnerships between critical capability companies and capital providers,” Lord said. “Trusted Capital works by providing opportunities for trusted financial institutions and qualifying companies to explore mutually beneficial partnerships in support of national security goals.”
Capital providers will apply for the program via the Trusted Capital landing page and then undergo a “rigorous” due diligence process to ensure they aren’t controlled or influenced by foreign entities before being accepted into the marketplace, Lord said. Technology providers will be required to receive a recommendation after going through a security screening process, she added.
The TCDM program is part of an increased focus on supply chain security and resiliency. Lord attributed this at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and DOD’s work supporting Health and Human Services Department with the medical supply chain.
Katie Arrington, chief information security officer for acquisition and sustainment, said during the press briefing more than 128 capability providers have logged into the system so far, adding the team is bringing on capital providers from a previous iteration of the Trusted Capital program. Arrington and Trusted Capital Director Colin Supko lead the project, according to a DOD press release.
The initiative is focused on several sector areas, including advanced computing, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, human-machine interfaces, and communications and networking technologies.
“We’re working across the department and the [combatant commands], but also looking outward to other federal agencies so that we can really bring together the best, what NASA is looking for, DARPA is looking for and doing the best to bring the capital providers that are very interested in supporting our national defense and getting them directly in line with those people with the most innovative cutting edge technologies,” Arrington said.
Lord said the marketplace will help smaller, nontraditional companies get on DOD’s radar and diversify the defense industrial base.
“This is a fantastic way for those companies not only to identify themselves to the Department of Defense, but really almost get into a speed dating app with all kinds of capital providers that are very interested in finding those innovation providers for the department’s critical technologies,” she said.