Daines Urges Defense Department to Explore Weapons Innovation Locally

Marine Corps conducting market research with PROOF Research in Kalispell

By Tristan Scott
A PROOF Tactical II is seen displayed on a table at PROOF Research. Beacon File Photo

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is hopeful that the Department of Defense will take advantage of the Treasure State’s burgeoning tech sector as it scouts out new locations for breakthrough weapons technology hubs.

In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Daines urged the department to consider more rural locations for its newly revamped Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Department of Defense pet project designed to seek out emerging defense technologies.

The current hub is located in Silicon Valley, California, but with the announcement of another hub opening in Boston, and more to follow, Daines encouraged Carter to consider housing a hub in Montana.

In his letter, Daines argues that some of the most advanced technology available to the Defense Department is located in rural states like Montana, including in the Flathead Valley, and at a more cost-effective price.

“Due to our booming technology hub and some of the most advanced equipment used by the Department being made right in my home state, we stand to offer a great benefit to enhancing the warfighters’ capabilities,” Daines wrote in the letter. “For example, I was told by the Marine Corps last month that they could make their sniper rifle three pounds lighter, and just as accurate, with a rifle barrel made in Kalispell, Montana. A seemingly easy fix that I’m told won’t be addressed for some time.”

The Republican senator’s office confirmed that Daines spoke with U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller during a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing in March, where he learned that the Corps was conducting market research at PROOF Research in Kalispell.

According to a transcript of the hearing, Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, explained that the local company has designed a prototype barrel that could reduce the weight of the M40A6 sniper rifle by more than three pounds. Although the barrels are still in the testing phase, Daines encouraged the Defense Department to seriously consider adopting PROOF’s technology for its standard infantry, and to consider opening a DIUx tech hub in Montana.

“The DOD needs to expand to smaller, rural areas where some of the best technology has long been cheaper and easier to produce,” Daines said.

DIUx is a newly overhauled Pentagon innovation unit that Carter launched to combine the problem-solving skills of the tech industry with the resources of the military. After rebooting its Silicon Valley program, the Defense Department announced plans to open additional hubs, and Daines said Montana is a strong candidate for one.

“I have been informed that the Department of Defense is looking to expand its Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and I strongly urge you to give all due consideration to Montana,” Daines wrote in his letter to Carter.

At PROOF Research, the company’s patented carbon fiber barrels have been approved for use by the U.S. military, and are designed specifically to lighten the loads of service members, according to Derek McDonald, chief marketing officer at PROOF.

“The benefits of our carbon fiber technology allows warfighters to go further and longer while carrying more ammunition, additional batteries and other critical equipment,” McDonald said. “If you are at an elevation of 8,000 feet in the Hindu Kush chasing terrorists, every ounce counts, and our technology is designed specifically for lighten the warfighters’ load.”