April 23, 2015 / 4:08 AM / in 3 years

Pentagon chief seeks to woo Silicon Valley, eyes tech innovation

REDWOOD CITY, California (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in California’s Silicon Valley on Wednesday at the start of a three-day trip aiming to draw in America’s tech innovators despite major challenges, including making the Pentagon attractive to cyber-savvy youth.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea Thursday, April 9, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool

Carter plans to make several announcements during the visit, defense officials say, including establishing an outreach office in Silicon Valley focused on scouting new and emerging breakthrough technologies and building industry ties to the Pentagon.

“We don’t live in an era where all of the technology of importance to national security is going to come out of the Pentagon. Those days are gone,” Carter told reporters before landing in California.

The move is also the latest example of the U.S. government’s efforts to smooth relationships with tech companies in the wake of damaging revelations over digital surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Carter acknowledged that, in the wake of the Snowden revelations, part of his job will be to make clear to tech sector innovators that they share common values and interests.

“Are there suspicions? Are there issues that arose ... obviously in the case of the Snowden case? No question about it,” Carter said.

U.S. tech companies such as Microsoft Corp, Google Inc and Facebook Inc have had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. government and its security agencies since Snowden’s revelations, aligning themselves publicly with their customers’ right to privacy over the government’s desire for more effective surveillance of potential threats.

Carter, who will speak on Thursday at Stanford University, acknowledged part of his challenge in drawing recruits is making the Pentagon a “cool” destination for younger professionals.

“To be relevant in today’s world, you have to have a coolness factor. We want our mission to be exciting to people,” Carter said.

Carter’s visit comes two months after President Barack Obama visited California, asking U.S. executives for closer cooperation in defending against hackers after high-profile attacks on companies like Sony.

Carter also plans to unveil his new cyber strategy on Thursday, which will acknowledge a far more muscular cyber capability than the Pentagon discussed in its last strategy document in 2011.

It also stresses the need to expand the military’s “intelligence of key adversary human and technical networks,” according to a copy obtained by Reuters.

Editing by Paul Tait

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