August 31, 2015
Okay, so the title is not entirely true, but it's not every day that the Secretary of Defense has reason to be in Mountain View. Last Friday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with key business leaders in Silicon Valley and announced a $171 million deal to fund a consortium that will work on improving technology within the military.
In a New York Times article, it was expressed that Carter came to Silicon Valley to “engage.” The Pentagon is aware of how the majority of tech companies feel about working with the government. He said during his announcement that “sometimes we disagree. And I think that's okay,” he said. “Addressing disagreements through partnership is better than not speaking at all.”
The consortium, called the Flexible Hybrid Electronic Institute, will be led by California-based FlexTech Alliance and be made up of 162 companies, universities, and other groups. Big names like Apple, United Technologies, and Hewlett Packard are counted among the members. The goal is for it to be a manufacturing innovation institute that will work closely with the Department of Defense and its contractors in creating a number of innovative technological devices.
The Pentagon, or more specifically the Department of Defense, will provide $75 million to the initiative, which will be managed by theU.S. Air Force Research laboratory, and an additional $96 million, spread over five years, will be provided by industry, academia and local governments.
Some of the ideas in the works include wearable health monitors that could be built into military uniforms or used to assist the elderly, and thin sensors that could detect structural problems or trigger repair alerts. The sensors that could be integrated into weapons, ships, or bridges. There's also potential for new technology in the area of prosthetics for wounded warriors, or other innovations that could have military as well as commercial applications.
In addition to his announcement of the consortium and the funding, Carter later sat down with Silicon Valley business leaders for a roundtable discussion. The visit will include meetings with executives at LinkedIn and Google as well as local government representatives.
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