Gates, Cohen agree to work closer on technology, security

REDMOND, Wash. - Defense Secretary William Cohen last week visited Microsoft Corp. headquarters, where he met with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and the two leaders agreed to work more closely on important issues such as technology and security.

Microsoft is working with the Defense Department on policy-level issues regarding critical infrastructure protection, Gates said. "[Security] is an unresolved problem" and one on which industry and government should cooperate, he said.

In his introductory remarks, Gates welcomed the leader of Microsoft's "biggest customer" to Redmond and lauded Cohen's leadership in getting people to think about the technology issues facing government. Defense Department work "is the most interesting application of our software that there could possibly be," Gates said. Assisting DOD is a challenge that "pushes our software to the limit," he said.

However, Gates outlined areas where there is a pressing need for more cooperation between government and industry, particularly in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure from cyberterrorism. Although the baseline of personal computers and networks in use today is rather robust, Gates said all administrators must ask, "Could that [infrastructure] come under attack?"

Although the security puzzle is "an unsolved problem," Gates said, it is a challenge that will require greater industry and government cooperation. "[Critical infrastructure protection is] a real priority that the country has to think about."

Information technology and more robust security for 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 identify technologies that could protect critical information systems and is considering products manufactured by companies other than Microsoft, the spokesman said.

Cohen's visit to Microsoft is part of a program to generate a grass-roots understanding of DOD. His message hinged on the reasons why a strong military is crucial to continued success in the IT industry and other areas of the economy.

"The innovation, creativity and economic dynamism of American information technology is the marvel of the global economy," Cohen told a packed audience of Microsoft rank-and-file employees. "Because of who you are and what you do, the United Sates is the unquestioned leader in what may be the most energetic and important industry of the 21st century."

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