We keep saying that everyone wants to be involved in the tech scene these days, but even we admit that there has to be a logical limit to what "everyone" means.
The Pentagon plans to open its first office in Silicon Valley and provide venture capital in an effort to tap commercial technology that can be used to develop more advanced weapons and intelligence systems.
Oh, never mind.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is scheduled to unveil the plans in a speech at Stanford University on Thursday that will also discuss a new Pentagon strategy for cyberwarfare. The three-day visit to Silicon Valley will include meetings with technology executives such as Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, as well as a venture-capital round table hosted by Andreessen Horowitz, according to a senior Pentagon official.
So, the Pentagon's all-star "Lean in...or Die" tour of Silicon Valley officially kicks off today, but it seems that government spooks have been something of a tech player for awhile now.
The department plans to use In-Q-Tel, a venture-capital firm set up by the U.S. intelligence agencies in 1999, as the conduit. It will provide a small amount of seed capital during a one-year pilot program with the firm, whose past investments have included Keyhole Inc., which later provided the core technology for Google Earth.
Oh, the CIA funded Google Earth? Cool?
But let's put this strangely unsettling realization aside for a second and dig into what the Pentagon will actually be doing in Silicon Valley. Like, who's going to be riding the armored, rocket-enabled Segways around its airfield-cum-corporate campus ?
The Pentagon’s planned office in Moffett Field is expected to be up and running in a month, with around 15 staffers drawn from active-duty military and reservists.
So if you're a National Guard under 30 who likes to wear hoodies and think about "platform disruption ideas," please take one of these camo-colored Teslas and hit the road. You're Bay Area-bound.
But which "making the world a better place" startups are these tech-enabled reservists planning on exploiting backing?
Now, the department is turning to commercial firms for advancements in 3-D printing, robotics, and using big data to mine intelligence.
Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, told reporters last week that he’s focused on attracting bids from companies that currently don’t vie for government work. He said the department needs to do a better at accessing and using commercial technologies. “Our potential adversaries are already doing so,” he said.
Ok, cool, invest in what you know (or in the case of anti-hacking software maybe don't). And we're just assuming that Silicon Valley is psyched about this?
While Mr. Kendall and other Pentagon leaders have pledged to reduce bureaucracy and trim other impediments such as ownership of intellectual property, there are concerns this could take too long to lure Silicon Valley.
“I don’t think they have a plan. It’s a structural problem [at the Pentagon],” said one executive with close ties to the department.
This is going to be fun.