Defense

Sorry, DOD. Silicon Valley's just not that into you

Map of Silicon Valley (PR Newswire/SiliconValleyMap.com)

The Pentagon is increasingly courting start-up firms in Silicon Valley, but Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain is not seeing much enthusiasm in return.

"Right now, there's not a lot of interest in Silicon Valley in being engaged in acquisition with the military and with the Pentagon because they don't see any benefit in getting involved in the labyrinth that is called defense acquisition," McCain (R-Arizona) said Oct. 20 at a Brookings Institution event, where he was joined by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

"It's not just Silicon Valley. There [are] all sorts of key industries that are saying, 'I don't really think it's worth doing business with" the Pentagon, Thornberry said later in the panel discussion.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has sought to rejuvenate the Pentagon's relationship with startups by opening a Defense Department outreach office in Silicon Valley. While that outpost may help the Pentagon and venture capital firms better understand each other, more substantive issues, such as DOD's long acquisition cycles, may stand in the way of closer collaboration.

McCain and Thornberry have made acquisition reform a centerpiece of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that has cleared Congress but faces a veto threat from the White House over its use of overseas contingency operations funding.

The bill would give new acquisition authority to Cyber Command to acquire and sustain the cyber tools it deems critical to its mission. The legislation would also allow the Defense secretary to respond to a cyberattack by designating a senior official to quickly acquire supplies and services needed to mitigate the effects of an attack.

Thornberry has described acquisition reform as a long-term slog. When asked what acquisition measures he will focus on in the fiscal 2017 NDAA, the Texan said, "One of the big challenges we face is inventing technology as we are purchasing it. So I think focusing on that issue is something for the future."

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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