SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Google generated a lot of headlines recently when an employee protest led to the company's withdrawal from Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative to utilize artificial intelligence to mine intelligence data. But there are plenty of companies in Silicon Valley and other commercial tech hubs who want to help the military, observers noted at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit--a military outpost headquartered in Silicon Valley to help the Pentagon better tap into commercial innovation--noted the opposition at Google.
"That's not necessarily [a view held by] a majority of folks in Silicon Valley," he said during a panel discussion. "Every month we're surveying which commercial companies can help us solve this important military problem, and we're seeing an increasing number of companies that respond to that.... People do want to support the troops."
Brown noted that businesses also have a financial incentive to work with the Defense Department because it has the potential to be a large customer.
Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, said his company has had employees sign petitions saying they don't want to work on Pentagon-sponsored projects.
"We've met it head on by saying... we want the people of this country and especially the people who serve the country to know that we have...