DOD's Cohen, Microsoft's Gates talk national security

SEATTLE—Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates welcomed Defense Secretary William Cohen to the company's Redmond, Wash., campus today, where the two leaders said they would work more closely on information technology and security.

Microsoft is working closely with the Defense Department on policy-level issues regarding critical infrastructure protection, according to Gates. "[Security] is an unresolved problem" and one that will require industry and government to work together closely, Gates said.

Information technology and building more robust security to protect DOD systems have risen to the top of the Pentagon's agenda, especially after high-profile cyberattacks over the past two years. Late last year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a new doctrine for information operations, stating that IO would become a new "battlespace" and was as crucial to the national defense as air, land or naval operations.

Microsoft is consulting with DOD on policy issues regarding information infrastructure protection, a Microsoft spokesman said. Microsoft is helping DOD to identify technologies that could protect critical information systems. Microsoft is considering products manufactured by companies other than Microsoft, the spokesman said.

In his opening remarks, Gates took the opportunity to thank what he called Microsoft's "biggest customer in the world." DOD spends $300 million a year with Microsoft, according to DOD. According to Gates, DOD represents "the most interesting application of [Microsoft] software that there could possibly be. [They] push our software to the limit."

Having taken the last few years to concentrate its efforts on developing and fine-tuning applications that support enterprise-level deployments, Microsoft has considerably raised its level of awareness of DOD requirements, said one employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to Gates, Microsoft's concept of the digital nervous system—the ability to access information at any time from any location—is applicable to any large organization, particularly DOD.

Cohen, who called his visit to the software giant's campus "highly unusual," applauded the "intellectual endeavor" undertaken at Microsoft and said the company truly understands the connection between national security and prosperity.

"Because of what you do, the United States is the unquestioned leader in what may be the most energetic and important industry in the 21st century," he said. "The worlds in which we [both] operate are quite similar, [but] few appreciate more the interdependence of the global economy than you."

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