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Carter Visits Silicon Valley Companies to Enhance DoD Technology Innovation

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter yesterday wrapped up a two-day trip to California’s Silicon Valley, where he focused on renewing the longstanding relationship between the Defense Department and the wellspring of technology innovation found in that part of the nation.

"Across the board, ... there's a lot going on out there," he said, "in energy, in social media and talent management and lots of fields that matter across our technology base."

Carter met with senior executives at Facebook to discuss the potential for social media to connect commanders, troops and family members not only during deployments, but to also create "communities of interest."

He also met with Facebook employees who are also veterans to discuss "creating a two-way street between innovative talent in the private sector, and our need for innovative talent in the Department of Defense, not just the military, but the civilian part as well."

DoD's personnel system doesn't favor the kind of career flexibility preferred by people entering today's workforce, the defense secretary said.

"They like choice. They like openness. They like to move around. And therefore the ability to come in and come out, particularly in these highly technical areas, is really important," Carter said.

He said the department is working to create "tunnels" between DoD and industry to encourage innovative people to try out government service.

"We're going to see how it works and then scale it up if it does work," the defense secretary said. "And I'm just determined that we drill the holes in the walls that have developed between our two domains."

"I find people out there very eager to contribute," he said. "They care about national security, but they have their own style of operating in it ... We need to be compatible with that."

In addition to a mutual desire to attract talented and creative employees, the Defense Department and technology companies have something else in common, Carter said. Technology management -- ensuring research and development are both valued and productive -- is an issue in both the private and public sector, he said.

"It's an everyday problem for the tech industry, where ideas are one thing; commercialization is another. So, we have a common set of issues in that regard," the defense secretary said.

Carter also met with the heads of Andreesen Horowitz, a venture capital firm, to discuss their efforts to build bridges between Silicon Valley and Washington.

The future of the finest fighting force in the world will depend upon the Defense Department's ability to attract talented people and build the best defense technology, he said.

"So I'm sure there'll be more trips and more innovation by us," the defense secretary said.

"We have to do things differently, but we can continue to be as effective, and I'm determined that we'll do that," Carter said.

In addition to visiting innovative technology firms, Carter delivered a lecture at Stanford University on April 23, in which unveiled the Defense Department’s new cyber strategy to guide the development of DoD's cyber forces and to strengthen its cyber defenses and its posture on cyber deterrence.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)

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