Discord between Silicon Valley and the federal government

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Simon Szykman, chief technology officer at Attain, discusses updates in the discord between Google and the Pentagon, and why potential mission issues should be a factor in choosing nontraditional contractors.


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford says that Google is indirectly helping the Chinese military by entering the web browser market in China. It’s one of many barbs traded between the private tech sector and the military during the last several months. Simon Szykman, chief technology officer at Attain, says that federal leadership should think about whether they will have issues getting the private sector on board with their tech projects.

 

“You always need to consider what problems am I going to run into in getting the private sector to support my mission when it’s necessary. I think obviously somebody like the general was focusing on military mission. At the Commerce Department, we had a more civilian type mission so maybe less concerns about those risks materializing at Commerce,” Szykman said. “I think everybody that works inside the federal government recognizes the big picture and sort of the fact that it is not always civilian.”

 

Szykman says that the disconnect between mainstream tech and the military could prove to be an issue not only for Google’s artificial intelligence project, but any other cutting-edge tech from the private sector.

 

“What I do think is that [AI] is a leading-edge technology where commercial sector is leading. It’s new. You have companies that make missiles and drones and weapons that have been doing that for many, many decades. They are ingrained in that and they do that very well but the companies that do AI very well are typically a different type of company,” Szykman told Government Matters. “They are coming out of sort of the high-tech world. Many of the applications that brought these companies to prominence are very peaceful type of applications. So, the companies and the people working in those companies have a different culture than many of the companies that have supported military and intelligence applications in the past.”