As part of his continuing effort to engage with innovative technology companies, Defense Secretary Ash Carter on March 3 spoke at a Microsoft-hosted breakfast in Seattle.
“Earlier this week I gave a speech about the role the U.S. military plays in providing the security that underpins the global marketplace,” Carter said. “We do this in every domain — air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. And we do it so companies like Microsoft can do what they do best, like helping empower people through technology to reach their full potential.”
The department is adopting popular security initiatives employed by companies like Microsoft, including a pilot program called “Hack the Pentagon.”
“The objective here is to let the ‘white hats’ help us find vulnerabilities before the ‘black hats’ do,” Carter said. ”It’s a great idea, borrowing best practices from the outside world where they apply to us and using them to improve ourselves.”
The department is also establishing a Defense Innovation Board, chaired by Eric Schmidt of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
“I hope we’ll see some innovators from the Seattle area joining it as well,” Carter said. “They’ll advise me and my successors on how the DOD can better connect to innovation and make better use of it — including by changing ourselves.”
“We need to innovate for the future, because that’s the way to make sure we have the finest fighting force in the world tomorrow, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now,” Carter said.
This is why the Defense Department must build and rebuild bridges between the Pentagon and communities like Seattle, Silicon Valley and Boston — all places where tech companies continue to thrive, innovate and benefit both security and society, he told the audience.
The secretary said DOD needs partners like Microsoft because technology is commercial and the competition is global. Carter said he wants to ensure the U.S. military stays the best in a changing and competitive world, so the DOD is investing aggressively in innovation — everything from undersea drones to hypersonic missiles that can fly more than five times the speed of sound.
“One important place we’re investing is cybersecurity,” Carter said. “Like so many businesses here, we in the Defense Department rely on network security heavily, which is why defending our networks and weapon systems is Job 1 for DOD in cyberspace. They’re no good if they’ve been hacked.
“And here, Microsoft has been a great partner as DOD makes a department-wide transition over the next year to the much more secure Windows 10 operating system. This is unprecedented for both DOD and Microsoft, and it means that 4 million desktops, laptops and tablets will be better equipped to defend against advanced cyber threats.”
Defense Digital Service
The defense secretary said the DOD is also looking to connect with America’s innovative business and technology community.
“Last year, I opened a defense innovation hub in Silicon Valley to explore ways we can better partner with companies here on the West Coast,” he said. “There’s also our new Defense Digital Service, which brings in coders for a ‘tour of duty’ to help solve some of our most complex problems. These are talented people who want to do something that matters, something of consequence. They go home and tell their family that they did something that’s bigger than themselves.”
Carter said the team, led by Chris Lynch, a former Microsoft employee, has “helped solve real important problems, like improving data sharing between the DOD and the VA to make sure that veterans get timely access to their benefits.”
The secretary said the collaboration between companies, universities and government reminds him of when they collaborated to build the Internet, GPS, communications satellites and the jet engine.
“These issues matter,” he said. “They have to do with our protection and our security, and creating a world in which our fellow citizens can live their lives and dream their dreams and hug their children and give them a better future.”