Congress Demands Answers On The DoD, DHS Silicon Valley ‘Experiment’

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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The House Oversight Committee wants to know exactly what the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security is doing in Silicon Valley, and how much they’re spending.

In a letter sent May 31, Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter to provide a briefing on the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). Rep. Chaffetz wants the briefing “as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 p.m. June 14, 2016.” Rep. Chaffetz wants to know about the staffing and funding of the Silicon Valley experiment, in addition to further information about “DIUx’s function, goals, and mission.”

Chaffetz sent a similar letter to Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson, asking for a briefing on DHS’s Silicon Valley Office (SVO). Using almost identical language as the letter to Carter, Chaffetz requested a briefing in the next two weeks on the staffing, funding, function, goals and mission of the SVO. DHS recently expanded their Silicon Valley to increase ties with the expert talent on the cutting edge of cybersecurity technology.

The DoD created the DIUx November 15, 2015, to establish a relationship between the Pentagon and the technology hub Silicon Valley. In a visit to DIUx in Silicon Valley on May 11, Sec. Carter launched “DIUx 2.0,” replacing the leadership and bringing the initiative directly under his supervision so that defense innovation can move “at the speed of business.”

In a Medium post on May 11, Carter defended the Silicon Valley “experiment” by stressing the need to stay ahead of other nations in technological capability through defense investment. The commercialization of technology, Carter says, has allowed “nations like Russia and China are modernizing their militaries to try to close the technology gap.”

In the DoD’s 2017 budget proposal, Carter requested $72 billion in research and development, which, he notes, is “more than double what Intel, Apple, and Google spent on R&D last year combined.”

This is not the first time Congress has tried to discover what the DoD is up to in Silicon Valley. In April, the House Armed Services Committee threatened to withhold funding for the DIUx in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) until they received a report on its purpose and use of money. President Obama said he would veto the entire NDAA if DIUx didn’t receive full funding.

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