July 19, 2017

The Rocky Relationship Between Washington & Silicon Valley

Clearing the Path to Improved Collaboration

By Loren DeJonge Schulman, Alexandra Sander and Madeline Christian

The Trump administration inherited a decent foundation on which to build collaborative ties between Washington and hubs of American innovation like Silicon Valley. Both President Barack Obama and former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter invested heavily in improving government outreach to the tech industry, bringing Washington and Silicon Valley closer than they have been in decades on both policy substance and technology solutions in the national security space. But the relationship was far from perfect, and it is as yet unclear whether lessons, good and bad, from Obama’s efforts have been taken seriously by their successors. 

Serious work remains to be done in substantive collaborations on countering violent extremism, the future of encryption, cybersecurity threats, and surveillance. Furthermore, several minefields lay ahead – such as addressing the technical and foreign policy challenges of “fake news,” the ongoing immigration debate, and the impact of automation on both domestic and international security matters. At this stage, it is unclear whether there will be similar levels of engagement with the tech industry to collaborate on solutions to these challenges or if the relationship will be sustained.

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