The U.S. Department of Defense must rebuild trust with Silicon Valley because it needs new technology partners to fight against cyberattacks, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Thursday.
The DOD is looking to build its defensive cybersecurity capabilities with help from technology vendors, but the military also will deploy offensive measures when its warranted, Carter said in a speech at Stanford University.
The department sees its cybersecurity role as largely focused on defense, but "adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and our defensive posture don't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary," he said.
The DOD will consider offensive responses, either through digital or conventional military means, in cases where cyberattacks on the U.S. result in losses of life or significant economic harms, Carter said.
Still, the government needs private companies to help with cybersecurity, he added.
Recent leaks about surveillance programs by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have led to many in the technology industry distrusting the military, Carter said. "We must renew the bonds of trust and rebuild the bridge between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley," he said.
"Because we have different missions and different perspectives, sometimes we're going to disagree, but I think that's OK," he said. "Being able to address tensions through our partnership is much better than not speaking at all."
The DOD is looking for partnerships with private companies in a number of areas, including the Internet of Things, robotics and data science, Carter said. The need is particularly great in the area of cybersecurity, he added.
"We're going to have to work together," he said. "While we in DOD are an attractive target, the cyberthreat is one we all face, as institutions and individuals."
Carter announced a new DOD cybersecurity strategy during his speech, along with a handful of programs designed to encourage private citizens to contribute to defense technology projects.
The cybersecurity strategy focuses on the cybersecurity deterrence mission and on building new partnerships with technology companies. The DOD will also expand its investment in promising new technologies, Carter said.
Among the new exchange programs Carter announced is a Digital Service team modeled after the technology team that helped fix Healthcare.gov after its disastrous rollout in October 2013. The first digital service team using private citizens is already working on fixing the way electronic records are transferred from the DOD to the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said.
The new programs will encourage private-sector technology workers to contribute to the DOD without signing on for a long-term commitment, he said. "Join us for awhile, even if it's just for a time," he said. "Feel what it's like to be a part of something that's bigger than yourself."
The DOD will also expand a fellowship program that sends military members to technology companies for a year, he said. The department wants to break down the wall between it and business community and "let people come back and forth," he added. "People want choices today, and they want mobility. They don't want to get stuck on one side of the wall or the other."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is [email protected]