Video of DoD Innovation Discussion at Cybersecurity Summit

Earlier this week I wrote (“Beware the Double Cyber Gap“) about an upcoming Cybersecurity Summit, arranged by AFCEA-DC, for which I would be a panelist on innovation and emerging technologies for defense.

The Summit was a big success, and in particular I was impressed with the level and quality of interaction between the government participants and their private-sector counterparts, both on stage and off. Most of the sessions were filmed, and are now available at

You can watch our panel’s video, “Partnering with Industry for Innovation,” and it will provide an up-to-the-moment view of how US Cyber Command and the Department of Defense as a whole are attacking the innovation challenge, featuring leadership from the USCYBERCOM Capabilities Development Group, and the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental. Solarflare CEO Russ Stern (a serial entrepreneur from California) and I offered some historical, technical, market, and regulatory context for the challenge those two groups face in finding the best technologies for national security. Most of my remarks are after the 16:00 minute mark; click the photo below to view the video:

photo: Lewis Shepherd; Gen. “Wheels” Wheeler (Ret.) of DIUx; Russell Stern, CEO Solarflare

From my remarks:

“I’m here to provide context. I’ve been in both these worlds – I came from Silicon Valley; I came to the Defense Intelligence Agency after 9/11, and found all of these broken processes, all of these discontinuities between American innovation & ingenuity on one hand, and the Defense Department & the IC & government at large…
Silicon was a development of government R&D money through Bell Labs, the original semiconductor; so we have to realize the context that there’s been a massive disruption in the divorcing of American industry and the technology industry, from the government and the pull of defense and defense needs. That divorcing has been extremely dramatic just in the past couple of years post-Snowden, emblematically exemplified with Apple telling the FBI, “No thanks, we don’t think we’ll help you on that national security case.”
So these kinds of efforts like DIUx are absolutely essential, but you see the dynamic here, the dynamic now is the dog chasing the tail – the Defense Department chasing what has become a massive globally disruptive and globally responsive technology industry…  This morning we had the keynote from Gen. Touhill, the new federal Chief Information Security Officer, and Greg told us that what’s driving information security, the entire industry and the government’s response to it is the Internet – through all its expressions, now Internet of Things and everything else – so let’s think about the massive disruption in the Internet just over the last five years.
Five years ago, the top ten Internet companies measured by eyeballs, by numbers of users, the Top 10 were all American companies, and it’s all the ones you can name: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Wikipedia, Yahoo… Guess what, three years ago the first crack into that Top 10, only six of those companies were American companies, and four – Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and Sohu – were Chinese companies. And guess what, today only five are American companies, and those five – Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo – eighty percent or more of their users are non-U.S. Not one of those American internet companies has even twenty percent of their user-base being U.S. persons, U.S. citizens. Their market, four out of five of their users are global.
So when [DoD] goes to one of these CEOs and says, “Hey c’mon, you’re an American” – well, maybe, maybe not. That’s a tough case to sell. Thank God we have these people, with the guts and drive and the intellect to be able to try and make this case, that technological innovation can and must serve our national interest, but that’s an increasingly difficult case to make when [internet] companies are now globally mindsetted, globally incentivized, globally prioritizing constantly…”

Kudos to my fellow panelists for their insights, and their ongoing efforts, and to AFCEA for continuing its role in facilitating important government/industry partnerships.

Slate of the Union Day

Today is “Slate of the Union” day, when the two most charismatic individuals in recent American history go on stage and attempt to reclaim mantles as innovators. I’ll leave aside the fellow with lower poll numbers for now (President Obama). More eyes in the tech world will be watching as Steve Jobs makes his newest product announcement, the Apple tablet/Tabloid/iSlate thing iPad (it’s official).

Back in the late 1980s I worked for the legendary “Mayor of Silicon Valley” Tom McEnery (he was actually the mayor of San Jose), and we did many joint projects with Apple, particularly with CEO John Sculley, a great guy.

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Birth of Cool (Cuil) – History Repeating Itself?

Fact: Cuil reaped the whirlwind of the media buzz it craved today.  As CNET put it, “Google challenger Cuil launched last night in a blaze of glory. And it went down in a ball of flames. Immediately after launch, the criticism started to pile on: results were incomplete, weird, and missing.”

Analysis:  For several months I’ve had running an RSS feed along the right-hand side of the ol’ blogspace here, entitled “Who’s Talking about ‘the next Google.'”  Ha ha – the RSS feed pulls from a Google News query.

Well, if you judge by the echo chamber hungry for positive tech news amid a down market, you might think “the next Google” has emerged: the birth of Cuil.  (Extra credit if you’re a Miles Davis jazz fan, by the way.)  I may retire the crown, or at least the RSS feed.  Here’s some of the global attention:

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Three Key Promotions in U.S. Intelligence

In the old days of Kremlinology, our side’s “Soviet analysts” (I was one as a kid, back in 1985-86) would pore over personnel lists and announcements of Politburo or Central Committee appointments, seeking clues to the direction of Party doctrine and intent. Military personnel promotions and reassignments were also studied closely to divine any insight into Soviet military policy.

There’s not a direct analogy to American military leadership promotions, but those lists are also studied intently, by peers and colleagues within the military branches, and also by experts throughout defense industry circles who can often decode Pentagon politics by watching who gets an extra star and who gets passed over.

Friday the U.S. Senate confirmed several key Army promotions, including three which I consider to be the most critical military intelligence positions in the nation. 

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SecDef Blasts Air Force on ISR

FACT: U.S. military use of airborne drones (UAVs) dawned at the turn of the millenium, with nearly 100 vehicles in use before the Sept. 11 2001 attacks. By the end of that year the number had doubled, with the majority in use in Afghanistan. Today, according to a speech today by Sec. of Defense Bob Gates, “We now have more than 5,000 UAVs, a 25-fold increase since 2001.”

ANALYSIS: The Gates speech today, to an Air Force audience, is being covered mostly with a focus on his “harsh criticism” of that service. For example, CNN’s headline was “Defense Secretary Scolds Air Force for War Effort,” or Fox News “Gates Says Air Force Must Step Up Efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan.”  And there was plenty of raw material for the tough stories, including CNN’s inclusion of the Gates soundbite that getting the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq and Afghanistan has been “like pulling teeth.”

Others (like a Reuters story) struck a less frenzied tone, including more depth about his proposals going forward, and the Defense Department’s actual plans for improved acquisition and use of Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR. I’d encourage you to read the full transcript (get it here).  (By the way, here’s some background on ISR and its variants.)

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New Report on Homeland Security’s S&T Directorate

Fact: “The Directorate of Science and Technology is the primary organization for research and development (R&D) in the Department of Homeland Security. With a budget of $830.3 million in FY2008, it conducts R&D in several laboratories of its own [and] funds R&D conducted by industry, the Department of Energy national laboratories, other government agencies, and universities.”

Analysis: The quote above comes from my hot-off-the-press copy of the new Congressional Research Service report (a pdf version here) on the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. Bottom line: CRS notes that “Congress and others have been highly critical of the directorate’s performance. Although recent management changes have somewhat muted this criticism, fundamental issues remain.” 

By the way, you’ll get a special bonus for reading to the end of this post, derived from an obscure footnote in the report.

The report is being reported in short-hand in the Beltway technology media, as criticizing DHS S&T for not being receptive to industry.  “DHS Directorate Elusive, CRS Report States,” is the headline in Federal Computer Week. The sister pub WashingtonTechnology has the same story with a different head: “CRS: DHS Directorate Lacks Collaborative Spirit.”  And yes, the report does detail the poor job DHS does at providing an open door to new ideas and technologies from the private sector.

But there’s a lot more in the report and it deserves more thoughtful reading & reporting, as it goes into some detail into the difficulties in bringing powerful and effective new technical and scientific approaches to bear for homeland defense and the war on terror.

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