The military's training is designed prevent questioning orders on the battlefield, but the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs said Thursday that'll have to change if the Pentagon is to innovate and become more efficient.

Gen. Paul Selva said the military was working at encouraging people to question why things are done the way they are or why something is a best practice while still fostering the discipline required to follow orders from superiors in combat.

"That's not something we build into our fielded force because what we do on the battlefield is about the discipline that we need to bring violence to the enemy," Selva said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We need to build back in, and continue to build into that process, this idea that the actual activity of military operations must be disciplined, but that doesn't mean we don't go back and look at and ask questions of how we do it better."

Selva also pushed back against the notion that innovating is not in the DNA of the military. Instead, he said service members are all taught to assess risk, so they must be convinced that an idea has a high chance of success before buying in.

"Are we a little careful? You bet. Does it keep us from changing the way we do business? Not even," he said.

Innovation has been a key priority in the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who has pushed the Defense Department to build relationships with nontraditional partners and look for ways to work better with commercial companies. One of his key initiatives has been setting up innovation hubs in Silicon Valley and Boston to start conversations with innovators there.

Without speaking specifically about Carter's hub model, Selva stressed the need to work with the commercial sector, since most innovation is coming from there, unlike in the past where most of the research and development of new technologies began in government. He said many nontraditional partners would raise issues if asked to do business with the Pentagon, like being unable to accept a huge contract or just a lack of interest in being associated with the military. Selva said it's the Pentagon's job to "educate people" to overcome those barriers.

The Air Force general, who took over as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs in July 2015, listed at his confirmation hearing the top five threats facing the country as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism. But since his appearance before the Senate, Selva said his view of these has "matured."

"They're not threats, they're challenges that we have to face not just today but over the course of the next several decades," he said.