Carter Visits Silicon Valley to 'Build Bridges' With Tech Community

Sept. 13, 2016 | BY Lisa Ferdinando , DOD News

The Defense Department needs to be flexible and more "user-friendly" to attract the very best in the highly competitive tech community, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today in San Francisco.

"In today's world ... you have to be open in order to be the best. Everybody knows that, and we need to be open, too," Carter told the "TechCrunch Disrupt 2016" innovation and technology conference.

One of the things that has made the United States the "best for a long time" is its great innovative culture, he said. 

VIDEO | 01:11 | Carter Discusses the Tech Community

Global, Vibrant, Competitive Tech Community

Carter said that culture has changed from when he started out in physics in the 1970s and 1980s. "It was a different world," he said. "The bridges between the government and the tech community were bigger and stronger." Back then, the tech community was largely based in the United States and depended on the government for funding, he pointed out.

"Today, it's global, it's vibrant, [and] much of it takes place independent of the government," the secretary said. "That's good, but it means that I have an extra responsibility to try to build bridges to it and keep bridges to it and keep that connection strong."

Carter said he knows people in the tech world want to work on meaningful projects and do something of consequence -- and the government has those types of projects.

VIDEO | 01:00 | Carter on Connecting with the Tech Community

He applauded top technologists who are willing to spend some of their time "working on our collective betterment and our collective protection."

Willing to Meet Halfway

Carter said he was at the TechCrunch event to spur viewers of the conference to connect with the government. "We're open-minded, open-eared,” he said. “We need the help, we know that, and we're willing to meet you halfway."

He highlighted how technologists can work with the Defense Digital Service for short periods of time or on specific projects. In addition, the Defense Department has an office in Palo Alto as well as a new post in Boston to connect with the tech community, he said, noting that the efforts are all part of building a bridge and "meeting people halfway."

"In today's world, it's competitive,” Carter added, “and you only win when you keep striving and you remain open." 

VIDEO | 00:41 | Carter on Government Networks

Securing Government Networks

The government spends an enormous amount of time and money to protect its networks, Carter said.

"We are very dependent upon networks that are secure," he said. "That's one of the areas where we welcome people to come and help us."

After his TechCrunch remarks, Carter met with top technologists in the Bay Area about how innovators can help DoD's mission, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)