October 18, 2018
Jay Harrison is a defense industry entrepreneur and technology innovator and an advocate for military acquisition reform. In 2006 he founded Mav6, a defense technology company recognized by Inc. magazine in 2011, 2012, and 2013 as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America. In 2016 he was named inaugural director of the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, a human capital innovation program within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Harrison was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1995 and then went on to earn master's degrees from the University of Florida, the Naval War College, and the National Intelligence University. He attended but did not complete the Master of Business Administration program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a Ph.D. candidate at the New York University.
In 2002 Harrison was selected by the United States Office of the Secretary of Defense to lead the Technical Operations Support Activity (TOSA), a secretive military organization created in 2003 chartered with finding and repurposing commercial technologies for sensitive military missions. Harrison arranged for TOSA personnel to be embedded with operational military units in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world to observe military and counter-terrorism operations, resulting in a number of revolutionary products delivered to the battlefield in the early phases of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During Harrison’s tenure, the United States Army awarded Army Greatest Invention recognition to three TOSA programs - the Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT System (UTAMS) (2004), the Persistent Threat Detection System (2005), and the Constant Hawk aerial surveillance system.
In 2006, Harrison left the military and co-founded Mav6, LLC, where he served as managing director and chief technology officer from 2006-2014. By 2011 Mav6 was earning about $120 million in annual revenues and had won three Inc. 500/5000 awards by creating collaborations between academia, industry, and military organizations. In 2011, Popular Science named one of Harrison's projects, the M1400 airship, as a top innovation of the year, and in 2012 Ernst & Young recognized Harrison as the Entrepreneur of the Year in the Gulf Coast Region.
In 2010, working as an advisor in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Harrison co-developed a process called "technology domain awareness", which matches new technologies with national security and public safety needs.
In December 2011, Harrison co-founded the Center for Battlefield Innovation, part of the High Performance Computing Collaboratory at Mississippi State University, to provide a focal point for applying university-based research to problems in defense and public safety. In March 2014, Harrison was named the first director of the Center for Smart Defense at the West Virginia University. In 2015 he was appointed Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at the National Defense University and the John Boyd National Security Research Fellow at New York University.
In 2016, Harrison founded the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, a partnership between the United States Department of Defense and several American universities. He has served as the inaugural director since the program’s inception. As part of his work there, he promotes the development of dual-use technology startups that address critical national security issues and has pioneered the use of hackathon and crowdsourcing activities to prototype new military capabilities.