The U.S. Are Investing
Aggressively in Innovation
Secretary of Defense Speech : Remarks
Announcing a New Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Silicon Valley. As
Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, National Full-Scale
Aerodynamics Complex, Moffett Field, Mountain View, California, August 28, 2015.
Hey everybody. Great to be here. Thank you all. Thanks
everybody for coming – please – thank you, all of you. Congresswoman Eshoo,
thank you, old friend and colleague; Congresswoman Lofgren; Congressman Honda;
Mayor Liccardo; ladies and gentlemen: thank you. Thank you once again, all of
you, for joining us today, and for your leadership here in the Bay Area, and for
being part of this moment, which is a moment in technology history.
It’s great for me to be back in Silicon Valley. When I came
here in April – after spending much of last year out here – I found that I was
the first Secretary of Defense to visit in almost 20 years. So I’m pleased to
return again just four months after that and show the progress we’ve made in
rebuilding the bridges between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley.
This is one of my core goals as Secretary of Defense –
renewing the ties, the bonds of trust between our national security endeavor at
the Pentagon, and our wonderful, innovative, open technology community of
companies and universities that make up one of America’s great strengths.
We’ve had a long history of partnership that’s benefitted the
entire society. This building, proof of it. The world’s largest wind tunnel,
it’s tested not only B-1 bombers and F/A-18 fighters, but also Boeing’s
commercial fleet, and the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9, DC-10 – helping our military
aviators dominate the skies, while also helping American companies dominate the
global air travel and transport industry.
Over most of the last 75 years, the bonds between the
technology community and defense were particularly close. I’ve observed that,
from seeing it from both sides: a technologist myself, and also serving many
years in the Defense Department.
We have today the finest fighting force the world has ever
known. We need it – we need it to protect our country and to build a better
world for our children.
We are the best, first of all – first of all – because of the
magnificent young men and women who make up that force. I was with them
yesterday at Pendleton; the day before at Nellis Air Force Base – it’s them.
It’s them, first and foremost, that make it the greatest.
But secondly, and importantly, our strength comes from the
long-standing link between the high-tech community and the government – whether
it was the integrated circuit, or the Internet itself, or in an era before that
the jet engine itself, satellite communications, and so on.
Because we have different missions and somewhat different
perspectives, sometimes we disagree, see things differently. That’s okay. I
think that’s okay. Addressing disagreements through partnership is better than
not speaking at all. And whether we’re developing a new product, or a new policy,
the lesson to me is always the same: it’s vigorous debate and exchange that
creates breakthrough ideas. So I’m here to engage and I want to deepen that
exchange between us.
And the fact is, that over successes and strains, our ties
have endured. And I believe that the challenges and opportunities we face in
this still young century demand that we strengthen our partnership in ways that
benefit us both.
We live in a dangerous world, and the fact that our military
is the finest fighting force the world has ever known is not a birthright. It’s
not a guarantee. We have to earn it again and again.
When I began my career, most technology of consequence
originated in America, and a lot of that was sponsored by the government,
particularly by the Defense Department. Today, much more of our technology is
commercial, and the technology base is global. And other countries have been
trying to catch up to the breakthroughs that for the last several decades made
our military more advanced than any other.
Indeed, technologies once long possessed by only the most
formidable militaries have now gotten into the hands of previously less-capable
forces, and even non-state actors. Meanwhile, nations like Russia and China are
modernizing their forces to try to close the technology gap. And our reliance on
things like satellites and the Internet can lead to real vulnerabilities in
space and cyberspace that our adversaries are eager to exploit.
So here’s what we’re doing to stay ahead of those challenges
and to stay the best. We’re investing aggressively in
innovation. We’re pushing the envelope with research into new
technologies – on robotics, data science, cybersecurity, biotech, hypersonic
engines that can fly over five times the speed of sound, and I could go on.
We’re drilling tunnels through that wall that sometimes seems to separate
government from scientists and commercial technologists – making it more
permeable so more of America’s brightest minds can contribute to our mission of
national defense, even if only for a time. And we’re developing new partnerships
with America’s private sector and tech communities, particularly here in Silicon
One of the keys to this place, to Silicon Valley, is
colocation, which I see every time I visit and which I experienced firsthand
when I was living and working here just last year. Everyone’s in the same area,
which not only helps forge relationships, but also helps spread new ideas. And
that close geographic proximity, coupled with strong links between academia and
industry, has made this entire region a nexus for creativity – an innovation
Our government has historically been part of this, too, with
DoD and government investments helping spur ground-up innovation in Silicon
Valley – funding research that, for example, grew into things like GPS, or more
recently Google’s self-driving cars, Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, and on and
Now, obviously none of this diminishes the genius, the hard
work, the tremendous effort by the innovators themselves, in San Jose,
Cupertino, Mountain View, here, or for that matter Cambridge, Massachusetts, and
America’s other great hubs of innovation. The government helped ignite the spark,
but these were the places that nurtured the flames that created incredible
Given what we’ve already done, there’s truly no limit to what
we can achieve together. And that’s why I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think
outside of our five-sided box, and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley
and in tech communities across the country. And today, now, here, we’re taking
another step forward.
I’m announcing that the Department of Defense is partnering
with FlexTech Alliance – a consortium of 96 companies, 41 universities, 14 state
and local government organizations, and 11 labs and non-profits – to establish a
new manufacturing innovation institute focused on flexible hybrid electronics.
This is an emerging technology that takes advanced flexible materials for
circuits, communications, sensors, and power, and combines them with thinned
silicon chips to ultimately produce the next generation of electronic products.
The Defense Department is making a $75 million-dollar
investment, which has already been matched and actually exceeded by tens of
millions of dollars in contributions from our public- and private-sector
partners, represented here. And like the six other Manufacturing Innovation
Institutes established by President Obama over the last three years – four of
which DoD helped lead, in areas like 3D printing, lightweight metals, integrated
photonics, and digital manufacturing and design – this one will ensure that
pioneering innovations needed to develop, manufacture, and commercialize these
cutting-edge electronics will happen right here in America. I’ve talked to the
President personally about these institutes on a number of occasions – he takes
a personal interest in them, you might be interested to know – and I know how
important it is to him that America keeps leading in manufacturing innovation
and continues to bring great manufacturing jobs back home.
With over 30 of the partner organizations having a presence
between San Jose and the Golden Gate Bridge – including companies along the
alphabet from Apple to Lockheed Martin to Xerox – the institute will be
headquartered here in Silicon Valley. And it will also leverage leading and
emerging innovation ecosystems across the country – places like Boston, Chicago,
Detroit, and northeast Ohio.
Flexible hybrid electronics have enormous potential for our
defense mission. For example, our industry partners will be able to shape
electronics to things, after decades of having to do it the other way around. By
seamlessly printing lightweight, flexible structural integrity sensors right
onto the surfaces of ships and aircraft, for example, or folding them into
cracks and crevices where rigid circuit boards and bulky wiring could never fit,
we’ll be able to have real-time damage reports – making the stuff of science
fiction, in that sense, into reality. Our troops will be able to lighten their
loads with sensors and electronic gear embedded in their clothing, and wounded
warriors will benefit from smart prosthetics that have the full flexibility of
The reality is, though, that as I stand here in front of you
today, we don’t know all the applications this new technology will make possible
– that’s the remarkable thing about innovation – and that’s another reason why
America, and America’s military, must get there first.
The commercial applications will be just as transformative,
if not more so, given the impact of wearables, Internet-of-Things, and so on.
Smart bandages that can analyze a patient’s biomarkers in their sweat will help
doctors catch infections earlier. Stretchable sensors can be put on cars,
bridges, and buildings to help keep people safe. Flexible medical diagnostics
for x-rays and breast cancer tests will be more accurate and less painful. And
instead of tracking athletic performance with bulky devices on our wrists,
flexible electronics coupled with new, revolutionary fibers and textiles will
let us embed washable, wearable, featherweight sensors in our clothes – giving
us an even clearer picture of our health and fitness.
This new partnership is only the latest of what we’re doing
to rebuild the bridge between the Pentagon and the technology community.
After this, I’m going across the street – right here – to
host the first corporate roundtable at the headquarters of what I think of as my
new start-up, the Defense Innovative Unit Experimental, or DIUx, which I
announced at Stanford University in April and now is open for business. Located
here at Moffett Field, its proximity to the Valley will be key to its success in
helping start-ups and other companies here partner with us.
And later today I’ll visit LinkedIn, to discuss and learn how
DoD can better compete for talented Americans who want to contribute to our
mission – because as I said, it’s not just about the best technology. We need
the best people, too.
This is an exciting time – it reminds me of the kind of
collaboration between companies, universities, and government that built the
Internet and GPS, or in an earlier era, as I said, communications satellites and
the jet engine.
For those interested in foreign policy and national security,
there are lots of interesting challenges and problems to work on. And that’s
also true for those interested in technology. The intersection of the two is an
These issues matter. They have to do with our protection and
our security, and creating a world in which our fellow citizens can live their
lives and dream their dreams and hug their children and give them a better
Helping defend your country and making a better world is one
of the noblest things a person can do. And we’re grateful to all of you for
doing that with us.