Last week, the newly appointed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter finished a two-day tour in Silicon Valley in an attempt to lure more IT professionals’ brain power into his department’s plans to beef up cybersecurity across the U.S.
He first delivered a speech at Stanford University followed by a visit to Facebook’s headquarters to meet with its founder and chief operating officer. The final stop was at Andreessen Horowitz’s headquarters where he met with the innovative entrepreneurs and financiers Ben Horowitz and Peter Thiel, as well as with top executives from the tech firms listed in the company’s portofolio.
Analysts criticized the Pentagon’s move for being unnecessary delayed. The last time a Pentagon official visited Silicon Valley was in the 1990s, when cyberattacks were not as destructive and costly as they are today. Critics believe that Carter’s tour was a sign that his department finally deems cyber attacks a threat to national security.
But Carter did not plan to just strengthen his department’s ties with tech leaders. Instead he intended to forge new partnerships, invest and take advantage on the technological advances. At Stanford, he mentioned Pentagon was looking to hire engineers for a cyber task force dubbed Team America, pump serious money into tech start-ups and even set a Defense Department outpost in Silicon Valley.
Secretary of Defense also told the crowd gathered at Stanford’s business school that recruiting the brightest techies was not an easy task for the government. Many IT experts would rather not join a corporation or a government agency because they would be deprived of their beloved flexibility.
But the Pentagon is taking its plans seriously as it already announced a “small investment” into In-Q-Tel, a non- profit venture capital company that has been investing in tech start-ups for more than 15 years in order to keep the CIA up to date with the latest technologies.
The Pentagon also disclosed the location of the new Defense Department office, which will run operations from Moffett Airfield.
Carter also reminded Stanford engineers that most cutting-edge technologies that we currently use are the result of military projects funded by the government. He mentioned GPS technology, voice recognition technology, multitouch, and other features successfully integrated by Apple in its iPhones.
But the U.S. Department of Defense is not the only agency to eye Silicon Valley. This month, the NSA negotiated with tech companies a new means to have access to private encrypted data. The spy agency said it wanted a “front-door” digital key to consumers’ encrypted data, but the key would be divided into separate pieces so no agency or private entity alone could use it at will.
Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it would establish a Silicon Valley office which would coordinate the data on cyber threats sent by Google, Microsoft or Amazon.
During his Stanford speech, Carter told audience that he was willing to “drill holes” in the wall that separates the Pentagon and IT industry and make it more “permeable”. Yet, critics fear that more “permeability” means that tech giants would further open their back door to government spying.
Image Source: San Francisco Chronicle