The ties between the Defense Department and commercial technology and innovation keep the U.S. military agile as it meets today’s challenges and remains ready for the future, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today.
In a forum hosted here by The Atlantic magazine and innovation firm 1776, the secretary discussed DoD’s technology partnerships and the Force of the Future with The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg
While DoD focuses on five evolving threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, “I also need to make sure that we're ready for things that we cannot foresee today -- as ready as we can possibly be,” Carter said.
A Decades-Long Tradition
DoD and the commercial technology and innovation worlds have maintained a decades-long tradition of cooperation, which is a reason the U.S. military is the finest in the world as it provides security for its people, Carter said, adding the close connection between the two realms is globally unrivaled.
“It's a competitive world,” he said, adding, “[And] even as it is competitive in the commercial world, it is competitive in the security world, and if we relax our guard and we just assume it's a birthright to be the best, that gap is going to close. I can't allow that to happen.”
The secretary said innovators are the people who want to make a difference, and they can help protect the nation’s people and civilization by working on projects with DoD through the Defense Digital System, such as keeping DoD’s nuclear command and control system from being hacked.
“That's … where best practices and the talent of people from the outside have made a very material difference,” Carter said.
“I'm trying to make us permeable enough that people can come and go,” he added. “Some people will want to serve in uniform, some people will want to serve in the civil service, and that's great and I want them to.”
The secretary suggested that start-up businesses connect with DoD through its Defense Innovation Unit Experimental -- also known as DIUx -- with outposts in Silicon Valley, California; Boston; and Austin, Texas. DIUx links with America's leading innovators so they can help address national security challenges and ensure America's warfighters remain on the cutting edge of technology.
World’s Best Innovation
“There is nothing better than waking up in the morning and being part of this fundamentally important thing,” Carter said of working on the department’s mission.
“There are a lot of wonderful things in life,” he said, “but none of them can be had unless we're safe. I always tell [the troops], ‘You get to get up in the morning and know that your heart is bigger than yourself.’”
The United States remains “an exceptionally strong country with an amazingly bright future and innovative people, tremendous military strength, but that's not our only strength. We have a very resilient economy. We have the best innovation system in the entire world,” Carter said.
Since the end of World War II, the United States has helped other nations rise and prosper, Carter said.
And today, the nation remains “a very influential power in the world. And I expect that to continue,” the secretary said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoDNews)