innovation nation

Learn from Israel’s example, Aspen Security Forum speakers encourage

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman called for a digital ROTC modeled off Israel’s 8200 unit

Dan Bayer

Mary Louise Kelly, Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, Reid Hoffman

ASPEN, Colo. — Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman pointed to Israel’s elite 8200 unit — a highly skilled tech unit within the IDF’s intelligence corps — as an example of how the U.S. could upgrade its military capabilities. 

Hoffman spoke alongside Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, the Navy’s chief of naval research, at a panel titled “Turning the Titanic: Is the U.S. Military Innovating Enough?” that looked at the military’s ability to adapt to a changing technological and geopolitical environment.

“If I were focused on what we need, is we need like a digital ROTC, a West Point that’s equivalent to [a] kind of digital and software,” Hoffman said. “We need that going into a service, whether it’s modeled on, you know, Israeli 8200 unit or other kinds of things.” 

“The training and education needs to change,” NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, the session’s moderator, said.

“Yes,” Hoffman responded. “The whole thing.”

“[Israel is] somewhat isolated. You’re in a challenging neighborhood,” Selby told JI following the panel conversation. “And you guys have figured out how to kind of internally turn out an innovation ecosystem…[Israel has] also figured out how to do that in the military.”

In response to a question about the U.S. ability to defend against hypersonic missiles that cited Israel’s newly developed Iron Beam laser-defense system, Selby highlighted the military’s efforts to work more closely with foreign allies.

“There’s a lot of appetite right now with particularly the United Kingdom and Australia for us to become interchangeable. OK? We’ve always talked about being interoperable. Interchangeable is like a step up. Interoperable, I can talk on the radio back and forth, might be able to give some tasking, but when I’m interchangeable, I can literally fly my quadcopter from [a] U.S. destroyer that goes out and does a mission. It goes in [and] lands on a British frigate. It can download all the data… I can read [a] task and recharge, it can fly off and do another mission and fly somewhere else that’s interchangeable.”