Pando

Disrupt war: The military's techno-fetishism reaches new heights with Silicon Valley outreach

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 4, 2014

From The News Desk

The Department of Defense wants Silicon Valley to help it prepare for the future of warfare.

A blog post on the Department's website says it wants outside thinkers to help "enable the protection of U.S. interests and freedom of movement, and deter future aggression into the 2025 timeframe" by offering suggestions on "space, undersea technologies, affordable protective systems against precision-guided munitions threats, air dominance and strike capability possibilities, ecologically and biologically inspired ideas and human-computer interaction."

The Department has created a "small, agile team" to solicit outside opinions on those areas in time to brief Chuck Hagel's successor as Defense Secretary by mid-2015, the blog post says. The group will seek input from video game developers, venture capitalists, and the general public in addition to its efforts to receive guidance from tech companies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The news follows a report that Sen. John McCain plans to improve the military's cybersecurity efforts when he takes the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and demonstrates the increasing focus on improving the armed forces' technical abilities to prepare for wars different from the ones the United States has waged since invading Iraq and Afghanistan those years ago.

But some have criticized the mounting concern for cybersecurity and cyberwarfare as a way for defense officials to defend against budget cuts and maintain respect. As Quartz put it on Tuesday after researchers unveiled a surveillance software called Regin and Sony's hacking was revealed:

Rid and Lee argue that hype makes for bad policy. As defense budgets have shrunk, cyber is one area where funding has grown. That leads to perverse incentives, encouraging worry in order to gain and preserve funding. Since cyber is where the money is, all threats are re-labelled cyber-something. That means “it is ever harder to say when something clearly is not cyber-related,” the authors write.
The Pentagon's efforts to seek guidance from Silicon Valley aren't directly related to cyberwar -- that doesn't even make the long list quoted at the beginning of this post -- but it does showcase the military's increasing techno-fetishism. The question, then, is whether this renewed focus on outpacing enemy capabilities is well-founded or if it's just an effort to maintain the status quo.

Given the increasingly secret nature of the US's military efforts, combined with the government's knack for keeping its digital activities secret from the public, it's unlikely that we'll know the answer to that question for a long, long while.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]