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Defense Secretary Ash Carter visiting JBLM and Seattle’s tech titans this week

Defense Secretary Ash Carter
Defense Secretary Ash Carter AP

Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit the Puget Sound region this week as part of a West Coast swing he’s using to court support among technology leaders for the Pentagon’s perennial battlefront in cyberspace.

He’s also expected to spend time at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, marking the first visit of a sitting defense secretary to the South Sound military installation since Robert Gates met with leaders from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division as it prepared for a combat deployment in July 2008.

Military officials said details of Carter’s anticipated stop at JBLM are not yet ready for release.

Recently, they’ve been touting the base as a “power projection platform” on the Pacific Rim and a visit from Carter could be used to show off rapidly deployable units stationed there. Carter underscored a similar theme in an October visit to Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

In Seattle, Carter is expected to spend Thursday in meetings with officials from Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing. One event is scheduled to be open to news media.

It’s his third trip to the West Coast in the past year in an effort he launched to “rebuild bridges” with the tech industry since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 disclosed classified material that sowed divisions between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon.

Now, Carter’s looking to entice the industry to help on a mix of challenges from improving the Pentagon’s own cyber security to shutting down social media tools that Islamic State militants use to find recruits.

The Defense Department has its own arsenal of tools to face those threats, but it also wants to open doors for better exchanges with private industry.

“We don't have the luxury of choosing which threat we may face next, but we do have the ability to set the course for how best to prepare for the future. A common theme across our budget is that we, in the Pentagon, have to innovate and think outside our five-sided box,” Carter said to reporters Monday before he left Washington, D.C.

“And that’s why I'm continuing my effort to rebuild bridges between the Department of Defense and some of our nation's most innovative industries, enhancing ties that will strengthen this department and our nation's security,” he said.

On Tuesday, Carter spoke at a tech conference in San Francisco, where he described a range of national security threats from a volatile North Korea to China’s efforts to strengthen its hand in the Pacific. He used language meant to appeal to the San Francisco tech industry.

“We’ve seen that China aims to, as one news headline put it last year, ‘rewrite the rules of the global Internet,’ limiting the access their 1 billion-plus citizens have to an open society,” Carter said. “China has also indicated intent to require backdoors for all new technologies — potentially forcing the world to operate, and innovate, on China’s terms,” Carter said, according to a report from Defense News.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646, @TNTMilitary