WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants to "embrace" the culture and capabilities of Silicon Valley, he said in an April 23 speech.
"We also need to work together because we're living in the same world, with the same basic trends and threats," Carter said in prepared remarks distributed by the Pentagon.
A particularly large threat shared by both sides is that of a crippling cyber attack.
"As tech companies see every day, the cyber threat against US interests is increasing in severity and sophistication," Carter said. "While the North Korean cyber attack on Sony was the most destructive on a US entity so far, this threat affects us all. And it comes from state and non-state actors alike."
Carter also announced the official launch of his new cyber strategy, the first in four years.
To help strengthen the relationship between the two coasts, Carter formally announced the creation of Defense Innovation Unit X, with the X standing for experimental.
"This first-of-its-kind unit will be staffed by an elite team of active-duty and civilian personnel, plus key people from the Reserves, where some of our best technical talent resides," Carter explained. "They will strengthen existing relationships and build new ones; help scout for breakthrough and emerging technologies; and function as a local interface node for the rest of the department."
Carter also hinted that the flow of information could be a two-way street. While the main goal of the new group is to help inform the Pentagon on technology, he predicted it could serve as a knowledge base informing startups on how best to compete for Pentagon contracts.
He also sought to assuage concerns from the commercial industry that DoD will insist on taking intellectual property, something analysts have said the Silicon Valley culture would not embrace.
"Let me assure you that we understand and appreciate industry's right to intellectual property," Carter said. "DoD has a long history of successfully protecting companies' proprietary information, and we respect the fact that IP is often the most important and valuable asset a company holds, and that businesses cannot be forced to sell their IP to the government."
"We need the creativity and innovation that comes from startups and small businesses, and we know that part of doing business with you requires protecting your intellectual property," he added.
"I don't want us to lose out on an innovative idea or capability we need because the Pentagon bureaucracy was too slow to fund something, or we weren't amenable to working with as many startups as we could be," he said.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.