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Remarks to Seattle-area Technology, Business, Community, and Military Leaders

Thanks, Brad. Appreciate it. Thank you so much, Brad.

And thank all of you — thank all of you for being here.

This is the way it ought to be—the military community and the larger community together; the security imperative and our competitive and technological imperatives coming together, reinforcing one another. So this meeting, which was Microsoft's idea and I really salute you for it. I'm grateful to have the opportunity. It signifies everything we need to do to protect our people and make a better world for our children.

So I thank you all for what you do every day in that cause individually, but for coming together today.

Governor, thank you for being here. You honor us with your presence.

And I for what I call our folks, our family, everybody, just looking out here at our guys in uniform, I just have to say that — people say what was it like to be Secretary of Defense, you know, you have all these burdens; you have all these — I say, "No, look how proud it can be of these people." I'm so proud to be the Secretary of Defense for our military.

And Steve is one guy who is here who I go back with a way, which is Steve Monza. We were just talking now. We go back to Iraq — back in another cycle and he did absolutely amazing things there, and now holds down a major part of our responsibility here. And our responsibility here is the topic about which I thought I'd make a few remarks and then we're going to do — Brad's going to ask some questions, and then I'll take questions or comments from anybody out there.

The theme is the importance of the bond between the U.S. military and our fellow citizens in so many domains. It's not something we can take for granted as generations change, as technology changes, as society changes. And people are, I know, and they tell me all the time are very grateful for what those folks do for our country. They know that it's the finest fighting force the world has ever known. They're glad of that.

But they also expect that it will stay that way 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. And I have the responsibility of fighting today's wars and also making sure that we can dominate tomorrow's security landscape.

Earlier this week, I gave a speech down in San Francisco about the role that the Defense Department plays in ensuring the security of the global marketplace, upon which Seattle depends. I was in San Francisco at the time — San Francisco depends. And we do this. We do it in every domain — air, land, sea, space, cyberspace.  And we do it so companies like Microsoft and the others represented in this room can do what they do best — helping empower people through technology and helping our people reach their full potential. This is a role that America and its military — this global role — have had since the end of World War II; one we continue to fulfill today. And it's one we intend to continue to fulfill, even as we enter what really is a new strategic era — engaging with a security environment that's dramatically different from the last 25 years.

I want to give you a sense of what we're focused on these days in the Pentagon. There are no fewer than five central evolving — central challenges that drive our planning now in the Defense Department — our planning, our budgeting, our activities, our operations — namely, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism.  And I'll briefly describe each of them to you this morning before I go more deeply into the issues that I know are top of mind for this community.

The first two of those challenges, China and Russia, reflect in a way a return to great power competition. One is in Europe, where we're taking a strong — have to take a strong and balanced approach to deterring Russian aggression on the continent of the kind we've seen. Second challenge is in the Asia-Pacific, the single most consequential region of the world to America's future — half of humanity, half of the economy, only growing; where China is rising, which is fine, but behaving aggressively, which is not.

Meanwhile, two other longstanding challenges pose threats to specific regions. North Korea is one, and that's why our forces, and we never take our eye off this, our forces on the Korean peninsula remain ready, as their slogan goes, to fight tonight — not something we want to do, but something we're ready to do.  And the other is Iran, because while the nuclear accord is a good deal in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, we must still deter Iranian aggression and check Iranian malign influence in the region, and protect allies and friends, including especially Israel.

The fifth challenge, very different from the four and critically important, is our ongoing fight against terrorism, especially ISIL, which must be and will be dealt a lasting defeat, most immediately, in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria where we're accelerating our campaign in every dimension, including cyber, by the way, as well as where ISIL's is metastasizing around the world. We're doing it in North Africa. We're also doing that in Afghanistan, where we continue to stand with the Afghan government and people to counter ISIL and Al Qaeda. And at the same time, all the while we're continuing to work with other government agencies on protecting our homeland and protecting our people here.

We don't have the luxury of choosing among these five challenges. We have to deal with them all. But we do have the ability to set a course for the future — a future that's uncertain, but that will certainly be competitive and demanding of America's leadership, our values, our military edge.

The forces and capabilities we have based here in the Pacific Northwest are and continue to be a critical part of that — the ships and submarines that patrol the seas, ensure the free flow of commerce; to the cyber mission forces that help protect and defend networks online; and the troops and airmen who are building and strengthening our relationship with our many friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific.

They're our military is the greatest first and foremost because of the people represented here and the people they lead. That's why we have all the friends and allies around the world, and our antagonists don't. People like to work with our folks. They like to work with American soldiers. They conduct themselves decently. They're competent. They like working with them. And they like the values that America stands for. That's attractive.

And those people and those values are two of the things that make our military the greatest. But the third is and has been for decades and decades, technology — the strength of our connection to technology and innovation. And we need to innovate. We need to do it together for the future because that's the way to make sure that we have the finest fighting force in the world tomorrow, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

So one of my core goals as Secretary of Defense has been to build and to rebuild bridges between the Pentagon and communities like Seattle and San Francisco and Boston and many others — all places where companies like yours — ones represented in this room — continue to thrive and innovate and benefit our society and our security. And I'm going to be actually visiting some of them while I'm out there.

I visited some yesterday. I'm especially grateful to Microsoft for building that bridge from the other direction, from your public service sabbatical — this is a big deal, by the way — program, public service sabbatical program, I encourage others to do the same thing; high-level engagement between DOD leaders and your CEO, Satya Nadella, which I'm very grateful for; and now here today, through connections at the community level.

We need partners like Microsoft and the others in this room because I always tell people we don't build anything in the Pentagon. That's not the American way. The Soviet Union tried that; didn't work out very well for them. We have the best technology because we have a connection to the most innovative technology community in the world. That's why.

And that's been true for decades and it's still true. But the context is changing. When I began my career in this business, most technology of consequence came from America and much of that from the government. Now, American technology is still strong and government investment — $72 billion a year in our case this coming year — is still strong.  But there's no question the global technology base is commercialized and globalized compared to when I started out.

That's a very different environment within which we have to keep an innovative defense. So to make sure that our military stays the best in a changing and competitive world, we're investing aggressively in innovation from everything — undersea drones, cybersecurity, missiles that can fly five times the speed of sound, things we don't talk about because we want them to be surprising to anybody who tries anything with us. We're doing a lot.

One important place we're investing is cybersecurity. Like so many businesses here, we in the Defense Department rely abjectly on network security. None of our stuff works — the planes, ships, tanks, soldiers and everything, they need the network to be effective. So defending our networks and our weapons systems is job one for me in the cyber area. They're no good if they've been hacked.  And here, I have to say, Microsoft has been a great partner to DOD. We're making a Department-wide transition over the next year to the much more secure Windows 10 operating system. This is a big deal. It's unprecedented for both DOD, and I believe for Microsoft as well. And it means that 4 million desktops, laptops and tablets will be better equipped inherently to defend themselves against cyber threats. And I'm looking forward later today to seeing how Microsoft is pushing the envelope in cyber defense when I visit its new Cybersecurity Operations Center later today.

As DOD makes these investments, we're also doing more to connect with America's innovative business and technology community. For example, last year I opened a defense innovation hub in Silicon Valley and plan to do more, by the way, to explore ways we can better partner with companies here on the West Coast — essentially, an outpost of the Pentagon on the West Coast.

There's also a new Defense Digital Service, which brings coders in for what we call a tour of duty. They come in — these are talented people who think they want to do something that matters, something of consequence, go home and tell their family that they did something that's bigger than themselves — the noblest thing they could do.  And they come in — you know, they're not going to make a career, but — they're not going to join. They're not going to be part of the government. But they come in for a year or two, or a project, and make a contribution to us. And the leader of the Defense Digital — Chris, where are you? That's Chris Lynch over there is the head of the Defense Digital Service. I brought him with me.  He's been a serial entrepreneur in the tech world, living in Seattle, actually, for a time — even spent some time at Microsoft. And since Chris has been with us, he and his team have solved some really important problems for us.

I'll give you just one example of one thing they dived in and took on, and that is improving data sharing between DOD and the V.A. to make sure our veterans get access to their benefits.

That may sound like something that we should've done right in the first place, but the reality is we didn't, and Chris and his team came in there — crack people — turned the whole thing around in a few weeks. He's done such a good job cutting through red tape that he even gets to look like that in the Pentagon.

Stand up, Chris.

He wears a hoodie in the Pentagon every day.

And that's not all we're doing. Yesterday I announced two other important initiatives. One is the DOD is going to invite vetted hackers to test our cybersecurity under a unique pilot called "Hack the Pentagon". This is similar to the bug bounties that Microsoft and other companies have, and it would be the first one ever in the entire federal government. And the objective here is to let the white hats help us find vulnerabilities before the black hats do.

They do it for free, they do for sport, they do it for the distinction of having done it. I hope they don't succeed, but if they succeed, we'll learn something. It's a great idea, borrowing best practices from the outside world, where they can apply to us, and using them to improve ourselves.

The other initiative is that I'm creating a new Defense Innovation Board to advise me on how to remain innovative in the Defense Department — how to build that bridge to the technology community, how to look at ourselves in the mirror and see how can we change to be more competitive, take advantage.  And we'll always be different, right — we're the profession of arms. It's never going to be the same. It's not a company — it's the military. But that doesn't mean we can't learn things from people who have been innovative outside.  I'm very pleased that Eric Schmidt, from Google's parent company, Alphabet, has agreed to chair the Defense Innovation Board for me, and I hope we'll see some innovators from the Seattle area joining that board as well.

They'll advise me and those who come after me on how DOD can better connect to innovation and make better use of it, including, as I said, changing ourselves where that's appropriate. I often say that we in the Pentagon — I really mean — have to think outside of our five-sided box.

I want to make sure there's enough time for me to answer your course questions. Let me close by saying the obvious, really, which is this is a tremendous time of excitement, not just because of the dangers we face, which I'm confident we'll overcome, because we have the resolve and the strength and the will and the force to do so.

But because it reminds of a different era, and one we can replicate — the kind of collaboration between companies, the government, academia that built the Internet and GPS — and I remember those days — or an earlier era — communication satellites, the jet engine — I have to say I don't remember that. I do remember the others.

For those interested in foreign policy and national security, there are lots and lots of interesting challenges and problems for you to work on. And it's also true for those interested in technology — the intersection of the two is an opportunity-rich environment for the innovative mind.

These issues matter. It's not a game. This is about our protection and our security, and creating a world in which our citizens can wake up in the morning, hug their kids, take them to school, go to work, dream their dreams, live their lives. That's what it's all about, and you can't do that if you don't have security.

It's our job to provide that, and to do that well now and in the future, we have to keep thinking, we have to keep changing, we have to keep challenging ourselves.

And for those who are inclined to join this noble enterprise in one way or another, I just say the way I feel myself, which is that helping to defend your country and make a better world is one of the noblest things that you can spend your time doing.

I'm grateful to all of you in this community who directly and indirectly do that with me.

Thank you.