DOD chief in Silicon Valley amid cyber warfare boost

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is spending Tuesday meeting with tech leaders in Silicon Valley amid a Pentagon push to combat terrorists in cyberspace.

Carter said the trip is part of his efforts to “rebuild bridges between the Department of Defense and some of our nation's most innovative industries.”

The two sides have been at odds since government leaker Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed the extent of the government’s secret surveillance efforts.

The Defense head will discuss cybersecurity initiatives with these executives, as well as other tech capabilities.

The military has been increasingly trying to tap Silicon Valley for talent as it ramps up its cyber capabilities. The Pentagon is in the midst of building out the half-staffed U.S. Cyber Command. The cyber division is expected to reach 6,200 personnel across 133 teams by 2018.

Carter on Monday acknowledged that the military had recently launched an aggressive cyber war campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that is targeting the terrorist group’s ability to communicate digitally and disseminate propaganda.

"This is something that's new in this war, not something you would've seen back in the Gulf War,” Carter told reporters. “It is an important use of our Cyber Command — and the reason that Cyber Command was established in the first place.”

“We're trying to both physically and virtually isolate ISIL,” added Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

Silicon Valley could be a valuable partner in these efforts. ISIS is known to use popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to recruit and spread propaganda.

But since the Snowden leaks, the tech community has occasionally been hesitant to work with the Pentagon. Defense and intelligence officials have also frequently spoken about the difficulty they have recruiting top tech talent from places like Silicon Valley.

“A principal reason for the trip out there is to continue to reinforce our links to the innovative, titan technology sector of the United States,” Carter said.

The Defense Department last year opened up an office south of San Francisco to recruit talent — particularly in the area of cybersecurity — as well as to cement ties to major tech firms.

“We need to make sure that our people in the next generation are the best, as they are today. We need to make sure that our technology in the next generation is the best,” Carter said.