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9·11恐袭之后,不少美国人发了大财

9·11恐袭之后,不少美国人发了大财

Mike Hofman 2021年09月13日
从美国国土安全部的灾害救援,到扩大医疗范围,再到政府业务数字化等诸多举措,为大大小小的公司带来了赚钱机遇。

像我们当中的很多人一样,温迪·马谢洛清楚地记得“9·11”事件发生时自己在哪里,正在做什么。她当时正在埃格林空军基地(Eglin Air Force Base)的美国空军军械中心(Air Force’s Air Armament Center)担任合约主管,该基地位于佛罗里达州狭长地带,距离彭萨科拉东部约70英里(约112.65公里)。

在当天基地随之而来的混乱当中,马谢洛记得遇到了其工作特有的一个难题:联邦预算年将在9月30日截止,意味着她的团队将只有19天的时间来根据当时的预算权限处理紧急要求,而这将是一笔不小的数目。

马谢洛回忆说:“我们的责任之一就是为医疗行业打造支持系统,包括发电机以及人们在自然或人为灾害中部署的其他设备,也就是那些当你在不知道接下来会发生什么的情况下所需使用的设备。当然在‘9·11’当天,各种困惑蜂拥而至,而且基地本能地会让员工回家,但我当时说:‘不,你得让大家回归工作岗位,因为我们所签署的合约正是生产当前所需的这些设备。’”

在2001年9月的最后几天,马谢洛和她的团队确实扭转了很多合同,而且在随后美国出兵阿富汗以及伊拉克的几年中亦是如此。她自己曾经于2005年被派往伊拉克。在“9·11”事件发生之后的几年中,她所专长领域受到了极大重视。尽管如此,美国在过去20年的海外战争中仍然耗费了8万多亿美元的资金,推动了政府承包“迷彩经济”(Camo Economy)的蓬勃发展。“迷彩经济”是由波士顿大学(Boston University)战争成本项目(Costs of War Project)的主任海迪·佩尔提尔提出的。

像洛克希德·马丁(Lockheed Martin)、雷神公司(Raytheon)——2019年与联合技术公司(United Technologies)合并,以及通用动力(General Dynamics)这类传统承包巨头因此受益匪浅,而像Palantir Technologies公司这样的初创企业亦成为了家喻户晓的品牌。

佩尔提尔在研究该主题的一篇论文中写道:“2019年,五角大楼在承包方面花费了3700亿美元,超过了6760亿国防相关可自由支配预算总额的一半,较其2001年在承包商方面的开支增长了惊人的164%。”

与此同时,从美国国土安全部(Homeland Security)的灾害救援,到扩大医疗范围,再到政府业务数字化等诸多举措,为大大小小的公司带来了赚钱机遇。

在这一过程中,承包的属性和构架发生了变化,而且出现了新的复杂问题。即便我们阻止了“9·11”事件的发生,但这场变革的某些方面可能已经初现弥端,因此我们也可以说恐怖袭击带来了一个转折点。“9·11”事件之前,时任美国国防部部长的唐纳德·拉姆斯菲尔德(今年6月去世)对于有望削减官僚主义条条框框的理念就持支持态度。在“9·11”袭击之后,五角大楼让承包商来填补或加速阿富汗、伊拉克等地的计划。

康奈尔大学(Cornell University)的政治科学家、康奈尔科技政策实验室(Cornell Tech Policy Lab)的主任萨拉·克雷普斯说:“很明显,拉姆斯菲尔德对安全设备领域的私营化持赞成态度。其中部分原因在于,他已经在这个官僚体系中工作了很多年,因此他也知道这个体系存在的低效问题。”克雷普斯的研究方向是科技与国家安全的融合。

尽管拉姆斯菲尔德的举措通常很有争议,但他的很多理念都得到了实施。在他任职期间,五角大楼派遣黑水公司(Blackwater)的雇员和其他私人安保人员前往战场,来执行一系列职务,有时候会造成平民与承包商的死亡。就像新泽西州民主党、前海军飞行员米基·谢里尔议员最近指出的那样,在过去20年美国驻扎阿富汗的这段时期,私人承包商的死亡人数(3846)比美军(2372)还要高。

随着美国军队开始应对阿富汗深山和其他地区的恐怖组织所谓的非对称威胁,军队对新科技依赖日渐增加。为了实现精准的目标锁定,同时减少美军的伤亡,五角大楼采用了无人机侦察以及无人机打击,这意味着军队如今需要新类型的技能,而且有时候通过启用新的供应商来获取这些技能。

克雷普斯表示,“无人机打开了”硅谷与五角大楼之间更深层次的合作关系。她还记得在21世纪10年代中期,一批她认识的湾区工程学生提前结束了学业。一些人去了特斯拉(Tesla)工作,还有一些加入了总部位于加州硅谷的顶级无人机制造商AeroVironment公司。她回忆说:“这项工作看起来非常新奇,足以吸引全球顶尖科技大学的人才。”

同时,五角大楼开始聘请像Palantir Technologies公司这样的初创企业来分析他们开始捕捉的有价值信息。Palantir Technologies公司成立于2003年,当时位于帕洛阿尔托,后于2020年将总部迁至丹佛,其今年的营收超过了10亿美元。按照五角大楼的承包标准来看,Palantir Technologies依然只是个婴儿。作为对比,洛克希德·马丁公司2020年的营收达到了654亿美元,而其2010年的营收为456亿美元。然而,虽然这些巨头依然坐拥大量的五角大楼业务,但美国政府似乎越来越愿意与规模较小的企业合作,来开发创新的新科技。

然而,并非所有人都愿意看到大型科技与政府之间越发紧密的合作关系,尤其是涉及情报搜集的领域。2018年,3000多名谷歌(Google)雇员签署了一份呈交给首席执行官桑达尔·皮查伊的公开请愿书,认为公司参与Project Maven项目与公司知名的箴言“不作恶”(Don’t be evil)背道而驰。Project Maven是五角大楼用于战场的yabo88ios科技。在面临内部逆流的情况下,谷歌选择了不再续签Maven业务。《纽约时报》(New York Times)称,该项目长达18个月,价值高达1500万美元。微软(Microsoft)和亚马逊(Amazon)也出现了抗议活动,抵制公司在情报和国防领域与政府签订的合约。

对五角大楼的策划者来说,由于已经习惯了与波音(Boeing)和洛克希德·马丁这类巨头合作,因此这些插曲显得相当刺耳。克雷普斯表示,随着谷歌参与Project Maven,雇员那边的反对声此起彼伏。雇员说,我们来谷歌不是为了做国防部合同。“这对美国国防部来说还是新鲜事。在21世纪初,所有人都知道他们通过伊拉克和阿富汗的私人安保公司,参与了国防事务。所有在黑水公司工作的人都知道自己的公司是做什么的。”

像亚马逊或谷歌这样的科技巨头,1500万美元的政府合约对于营收的贡献是微不足道的,因此它们取消了国防相关的工作来取悦不高兴的员工,何况还有大量的小公司愿意取而代之。但问题来了,如何管理这些小公司。能够理解的是,如果纳税人的钱是用来购买未证实供应商的未经测试技术,那么政府合约经理在花钱时就会变得十分谨慎。

马谢洛指出,小公司也有着一些相同的顾虑。2014年,她升任中将,负责位于弗吉尼亚州利堡的国防合约管理局(Defense Contract Management Agency)。该局负责国防部以及其他机构的所有合约谈判工作,她也因此处理了大量类似问题。(2017年,马谢洛从军队退役,如今她是一名独立咨询师。)

她指出,一个明显的症结在于知识产权。创新科技公司可能希望政府为自己新技术的开发初期提供资助,而且意料之中的是,他们在交易谈判时异常谨慎,因为这类交易会限制公司随后实现该技术商业化的能力。马谢洛说:“在某些情况下,这些公司在谈判合约的研发部分时都做的不错,但当涉及到生产阶段时,它们会放弃这个机会,因为它们不希望将其权益拱手让给政府。因此,合约领域的一个严重问题在于,我们如何保护和鼓励创新者与我们合作,同时如何保护我们的投资。”

为了给与政府合作的初创企业创造机会,更多的合约经理都在尝试一个名为“联合模式”的方案。在这种方案中,政府会利用第三方,通常是一家非盈利组织,来管理涉及多家初创企业和小公司的合约。

美国合约管理协会(National Contract Management Association)位于弗吉尼亚州阿什伯恩,其首席执行官克雷格·康莱德说:“在联合模式下,我们会按照专长来划分群组。”该协会的成员包括政府承包业务官员,以及与其合作开展业务的公司。(马谢洛是该协会董事会的总裁当选者。)

康莱德称:“联合模式为非传统初创企业提供了参与合约的载体,这些初创企业经常称与联邦政府工作会拖慢公司的发展进程。政府能够采用这种方法来借用其开发技能或为编程需求提供帮助。”

在与初创企业合作时,网络安全可能会成为一个棘手的问题。马谢洛指出,不管是采用传统的合约模式还是这些新型方案,“其中一些人并不具备军方的网络安全意识。”随着政府技术供应商数量的不断增长,黑客与勒索软件攻击风险以及规避这些风险的责任,对于当今的承包商和承包商管理者来说是一个重要关注点。

该顾虑充分反映了国家安全政策领域过去20年中发生的诸多变化。人们似乎越发意识到,那些可以对我们造成伤害的势力已经发生了转变,它们如今正在尝试盗窃我们的数据或破坏我们必要的操作系统,例如SolarWinds漏洞门事件和科洛尼尔管道(Colonial Pipeline)黑客勒索事件。

美国总统乔·拜登在8月召集了多名首席执行官,包括亚马逊的安迪·贾西、微软的萨蒂亚·纳德拉以及苹果(Apple)的蒂姆·库克,来探讨这一话题。拜登说:“我们一再看到,我们所依赖的科技,从手机到输油管再到电网,可能会成为黑客和犯罪分子的攻击目标。与此同时,我们的高素质网络安全员工成长的还不够快,难以应对这一局面。现实在于,美国的大多数关键设施由私人领域持有和经营,而联邦政府无法独自应对这一挑战。”

随着政府寻求私营领域来帮助解决这一重要问题,马谢洛在“9·11”清晨时的想法则十分值得借鉴:如果政府并不知道会遇到什么问题,那么就应该通过承包的方式来获取你所需的技术。然而,要想弄清楚这一点是异常困难的,因为在这个世界中,威胁并非是实体性质的,而是技术性的。政府与科技供应商合作的紧密度最终将决定美国是否能够做好充分准备来应对不断增长的网络安全挑战。20年前,很少有人可以想象得到当前看似抽象却令人担忧的危险。(yabo88ios)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

像我们当中的很多人一样,温迪·马谢洛清楚地记得“9·11”事件发生时自己在哪里,正在做什么。她当时正在埃格林空军基地(Eglin Air Force Base)的美国空军军械中心(Air Force’s Air Armament Center)担任合约主管,该基地位于佛罗里达州狭长地带,距离彭萨科拉东部约70英里(约112.65公里)。

在当天基地随之而来的混乱当中,马谢洛记得遇到了其工作特有的一个难题:联邦预算年将在9月30日截止,意味着她的团队将只有19天的时间来根据当时的预算权限处理紧急要求,而这将是一笔不小的数目。

马谢洛回忆说:“我们的责任之一就是为医疗行业打造支持系统,包括发电机以及人们在自然或人为灾害中部署的其他设备,也就是那些当你在不知道接下来会发生什么的情况下所需使用的设备。当然在‘9·11’当天,各种困惑蜂拥而至,而且基地本能地会让员工回家,但我当时说:‘不,你得让大家回归工作岗位,因为我们所签署的合约正是生产当前所需的这些设备。’”

在2001年9月的最后几天,马谢洛和她的团队确实扭转了很多合同,而且在随后美国出兵阿富汗以及伊拉克的几年中亦是如此。她自己曾经于2005年被派往伊拉克。在“9·11”事件发生之后的几年中,她所专长领域受到了极大重视。尽管如此,美国在过去20年的海外战争中仍然耗费了8万多亿美元的资金,推动了政府承包“迷彩经济”(Camo Economy)的蓬勃发展。“迷彩经济”是由波士顿大学(Boston University)战争成本项目(Costs of War Project)的主任海迪·佩尔提尔提出的。

像洛克希德·马丁(Lockheed Martin)、雷神公司(Raytheon)——2019年与联合技术公司(United Technologies)合并,以及通用动力(General Dynamics)这类传统承包巨头因此受益匪浅,而像Palantir Technologies公司这样的初创企业亦成为了家喻户晓的品牌。

佩尔提尔在研究该主题的一篇论文中写道:“2019年,五角大楼在承包方面花费了3700亿美元,超过了6760亿国防相关可自由支配预算总额的一半,较其2001年在承包商方面的开支增长了惊人的164%。”

与此同时,从美国国土安全部(Homeland Security)的灾害救援,到扩大医疗范围,再到政府业务数字化等诸多举措,为大大小小的公司带来了赚钱机遇。

在这一过程中,承包的属性和构架发生了变化,而且出现了新的复杂问题。即便我们阻止了“9·11”事件的发生,但这场变革的某些方面可能已经初现弥端,因此我们也可以说恐怖袭击带来了一个转折点。“9·11”事件之前,时任美国国防部部长的唐纳德·拉姆斯菲尔德(今年6月去世)对于有望削减官僚主义条条框框的理念就持支持态度。在“9·11”袭击之后,五角大楼让承包商来填补或加速阿富汗、伊拉克等地的计划。

康奈尔大学(Cornell University)的政治科学家、康奈尔科技政策实验室(Cornell Tech Policy Lab)的主任萨拉·克雷普斯说:“很明显,拉姆斯菲尔德对安全设备领域的私营化持赞成态度。其中部分原因在于,他已经在这个官僚体系中工作了很多年,因此他也知道这个体系存在的低效问题。”克雷普斯的研究方向是科技与国家安全的融合。

尽管拉姆斯菲尔德的举措通常很有争议,但他的很多理念都得到了实施。在他任职期间,五角大楼派遣黑水公司(Blackwater)的雇员和其他私人安保人员前往战场,来执行一系列职务,有时候会造成平民与承包商的死亡。就像新泽西州民主党、前海军飞行员米基·谢里尔议员最近指出的那样,在过去20年美国驻扎阿富汗的这段时期,私人承包商的死亡人数(3846)比美军(2372)还要高。

随着美国军队开始应对阿富汗深山和其他地区的恐怖组织所谓的非对称威胁,军队对新科技依赖日渐增加。为了实现精准的目标锁定,同时减少美军的伤亡,五角大楼采用了无人机侦察以及无人机打击,这意味着军队如今需要新类型的技能,而且有时候通过启用新的供应商来获取这些技能。

克雷普斯表示,“无人机打开了”硅谷与五角大楼之间更深层次的合作关系。她还记得在21世纪10年代中期,一批她认识的湾区工程学生提前结束了学业。一些人去了特斯拉(Tesla)工作,还有一些加入了总部位于加州硅谷的顶级无人机制造商AeroVironment公司。她回忆说:“这项工作看起来非常新奇,足以吸引全球顶尖科技大学的人才。”

同时,五角大楼开始聘请像Palantir Technologies公司这样的初创企业来分析他们开始捕捉的有价值信息。Palantir Technologies公司成立于2003年,当时位于帕洛阿尔托,后于2020年将总部迁至丹佛,其今年的营收超过了10亿美元。按照五角大楼的承包标准来看,Palantir Technologies依然只是个婴儿。作为对比,洛克希德·马丁公司2020年的营收达到了654亿美元,而其2010年的营收为456亿美元。然而,虽然这些巨头依然坐拥大量的五角大楼业务,但美国政府似乎越来越愿意与规模较小的企业合作,来开发创新的新科技。

然而,并非所有人都愿意看到大型科技与政府之间越发紧密的合作关系,尤其是涉及情报搜集的领域。2018年,3000多名谷歌(Google)雇员签署了一份呈交给首席执行官桑达尔·皮查伊的公开请愿书,认为公司参与Project Maven项目与公司知名的箴言“不作恶”(Don’t be evil)背道而驰。Project Maven是五角大楼用于战场的yabo88ios科技。在面临内部逆流的情况下,谷歌选择了不再续签Maven业务。《纽约时报》(New York Times)称,该项目长达18个月,价值高达1500万美元。微软(Microsoft)和亚马逊(Amazon)也出现了抗议活动,抵制公司在情报和国防领域与政府签订的合约。

对五角大楼的策划者来说,由于已经习惯了与波音(Boeing)和洛克希德·马丁这类巨头合作,因此这些插曲显得相当刺耳。克雷普斯表示,随着谷歌参与Project Maven,雇员那边的反对声此起彼伏。雇员说,我们来谷歌不是为了做国防部合同。“这对美国国防部来说还是新鲜事。在21世纪初,所有人都知道他们通过伊拉克和阿富汗的私人安保公司,参与了国防事务。所有在黑水公司工作的人都知道自己的公司是做什么的。”

像亚马逊或谷歌这样的科技巨头,1500万美元的政府合约对于营收的贡献是微不足道的,因此它们取消了国防相关的工作来取悦不高兴的员工,何况还有大量的小公司愿意取而代之。但问题来了,如何管理这些小公司。能够理解的是,如果纳税人的钱是用来购买未证实供应商的未经测试技术,那么政府合约经理在花钱时就会变得十分谨慎。

马谢洛指出,小公司也有着一些相同的顾虑。2014年,她升任中将,负责位于弗吉尼亚州利堡的国防合约管理局(Defense Contract Management Agency)。该局负责国防部以及其他机构的所有合约谈判工作,她也因此处理了大量类似问题。(2017年,马谢洛从军队退役,如今她是一名独立咨询师。)

她指出,一个明显的症结在于知识产权。创新科技公司可能希望政府为自己新技术的开发初期提供资助,而且意料之中的是,他们在交易谈判时异常谨慎,因为这类交易会限制公司随后实现该技术商业化的能力。马谢洛说:“在某些情况下,这些公司在谈判合约的研发部分时都做的不错,但当涉及到生产阶段时,它们会放弃这个机会,因为它们不希望将其权益拱手让给政府。因此,合约领域的一个严重问题在于,我们如何保护和鼓励创新者与我们合作,同时如何保护我们的投资。”

为了给与政府合作的初创企业创造机会,更多的合约经理都在尝试一个名为“联合模式”的方案。在这种方案中,政府会利用第三方,通常是一家非盈利组织,来管理涉及多家初创企业和小公司的合约。

美国合约管理协会(National Contract Management Association)位于弗吉尼亚州阿什伯恩,其首席执行官克雷格·康莱德说:“在联合模式下,我们会按照专长来划分群组。”该协会的成员包括政府承包业务官员,以及与其合作开展业务的公司。(马谢洛是该协会董事会的总裁当选者。)

康莱德称:“联合模式为非传统初创企业提供了参与合约的载体,这些初创企业经常称与联邦政府工作会拖慢公司的发展进程。政府能够采用这种方法来借用其开发技能或为编程需求提供帮助。”

在与初创企业合作时,网络安全可能会成为一个棘手的问题。马谢洛指出,不管是采用传统的合约模式还是这些新型方案,“其中一些人并不具备军方的网络安全意识。”随着政府技术供应商数量的不断增长,黑客与勒索软件攻击风险以及规避这些风险的责任,对于当今的承包商和承包商管理者来说是一个重要关注点。

该顾虑充分反映了国家安全政策领域过去20年中发生的诸多变化。人们似乎越发意识到,那些可以对我们造成伤害的势力已经发生了转变,它们如今正在尝试盗窃我们的数据或破坏我们必要的操作系统,例如SolarWinds漏洞门事件和科洛尼尔管道(Colonial Pipeline)黑客勒索事件。

美国总统乔·拜登在8月召集了多名首席执行官,包括亚马逊的安迪·贾西、微软的萨蒂亚·纳德拉以及苹果(Apple)的蒂姆·库克,来探讨这一话题。拜登说:“我们一再看到,我们所依赖的科技,从手机到输油管再到电网,可能会成为黑客和犯罪分子的攻击目标。与此同时,我们的高素质网络安全员工成长的还不够快,难以应对这一局面。现实在于,美国的大多数关键设施由私人领域持有和经营,而联邦政府无法独自应对这一挑战。”

随着政府寻求私营领域来帮助解决这一重要问题,马谢洛在“9·11”清晨时的想法则十分值得借鉴:如果政府并不知道会遇到什么问题,那么就应该通过承包的方式来获取你所需的技术。然而,要想弄清楚这一点是异常困难的,因为在这个世界中,威胁并非是实体性质的,而是技术性的。政府与科技供应商合作的紧密度最终将决定美国是否能够做好充分准备来应对不断增长的网络安全挑战。20年前,很少有人可以想象得到当前看似抽象却令人担忧的危险。(yabo88ios)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

Like many of us, Wendy Masiello remembers exactly where she was and what she was doing on 9/11. In her case, she was serving as the director of contracting for the Air Force’s Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, about 70 miles east of Pensacola on the Florida panhandle.

In the scramble that ensued on base that day, Masiello remembers having one concern that was unique to her line of work: The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, meaning her team would have only 19 days to process emergency requests against the current budget authority, of which she expected a large number.

“One of our responsibilities was to do support systems for the medical community, including generators, and other equipment you deploy during natural or man-made disasters—things that you need in moments when you don’t know exactly what will come next,” Masiello recalls. “On 9/11, of course, there was so much confusion, and there was an instinct to send our people home, but I said, ‘No, you need to get us back to work, because the contracts we put together are for exactly the kind of equipment we are going to need now.’”

Masiello and her team indeed turned around many contracts in those final days of September 2001, and in the years to follow as the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and later Iraq, where she deployed in 2005. In the years since 9/11, her area of expertise has been in high demand. All told, the U.S. spent upwards of $8 trillion to fight wars overseas over the past 20 years—driving what Heidi Peltier, director of Boston University’s Costs of War Project, has dubbed a burgeoning “Camo Economy” of government contracting.

Traditional contracting giants like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon (which United Technologies acquired and merged with in 2019), and General Dynamics have benefited, while upstarts like Palantir Technologies have become household names.

“In 2019, the Pentagon spent $370 billion on contracting—more than half the total defense-related discretionary spending, $676 billion, and a whopping 164% higher than its spending on contractors in 2001,” Peltier wrote in a paper on the subject.

At the same time, measures ranging from Homeland Security disaster relief to expanding access to health care to the digitization of government business have created opportunities for companies of all sizes to cash in.

Along the way, the nature and structure of contracting has changed, and new complexities have emerged. Though some aspects of this evolution may have happened even if 9/11 had somehow been prevented, it is fair to say that the terrorist attacks created an inflection point. Before 9/11, then–Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who died this past June, championed ideas that, in his view, had the potential to cut through bureaucratic red tape. After the attacks, the Pentagon looked to contractors to supplement or accelerate initiatives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

“Clearly, Rumsfeld was pro-privatization of aspects of the security apparatus,” says Sarah Kreps, a political scientist at Cornell University and director of the Cornell Tech Policy Lab, who studies the intersection of technology and national security. “Part of it is that he had worked in the bureaucracy for some many years, and so he knew there was an inefficiency to it.”

Though Rumsfeld’s efforts were often controversial, he was able to implement many of his ideas. During his tenure, the Pentagon dispatched Blackwater employees and other private security personnel to war zones to fulfill a variety of roles, sometimes with deadly results for civilians and contractors alike. As Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat and former Navy pilot noted recently, more private contractors died during the 20-year American presence in Afghanistan (3,846) than U.S. troops (2,372).

As the U.S. military began pursuing the so-called asymmetric threat posed by terrorist cells in the remote mountains of Afghanistan and elsewhere, it came to rely more and more on new technology. In an effort to achieve precision targeting while also limiting U.S. casualties, the Pentagon adopted drone surveillance and drone warfare, meaning that the military now required new types of skills and sometimes turned to new suppliers to find them.

“Drones opened the door” to a deeper partnership between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon, says Kreps, who remembers a moment in the mid 2010s when a slew of engineering students she knew in the Bay Area left their academic programs early. A bunch went to work at Tesla, while another cohort joined AeroVironment, a top dronemaker then headquartered in Simi Valley, Calif. “The work was seen as novel enough to siphon off talent from the best tech universities in the world,” she recalls.

In parallel, the Pentagon began hiring upstarts like Palantir to analyze the troves of data they began to capture. Founded in Palo Alto in 2003, Palantir (which relocated its headquarters to Denver in 2020) crossed $1 billion in revenue this year. It’s still a baby by Pentagon contracting standards. By way of comparison, Lockheed Martin saw its revenue hit $65.4 billion in 2020, up from $45.6 billion in 2010. But if the giants still enjoy plenty of Pentagon business, the government seems increasingly comfortable working with smaller players to develop innovative new technologies.

Not everyone was happy with the growing partnership between Big Tech and the government, however, particularly in matters related to intelligence gathering. In 2018, more than 3,000 Google employees signed an open-letter petition to CEO Sundar Pichai arguing that the company’s participation in Project Maven, an effort by the Pentagon to adapt artificial intelligence technology for battlefield use, was contrary to the company’s famous motto of “Don’t be evil.” In the face of internal blowback, Google opted not to seek a renewal of the Maven business, which was worth up to $15 million over 18 months, according to the New York Times. Employees at Microsoft and Amazon protested some of their companies’ intelligence and defense-related government contracts as well.

For Pentagon planners, accustomed to working with the Boeings and Lockheed Martins of the world, these episodes were something of a rude awakening. “With Google getting into Project Maven, there was such a backlash on the part of employees, who said, ‘We didn’t go to Google to do DoD contracting,’” says Kreps. “That was new. In the early 2000s, with private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan, everyone knew they were involved in the business of defense. Everyone who went to work at Blackwater knew what they had signed up for.”

If tech giants like Amazon or Google, for whom a $15 million government contract was barely a drop in the revenue bucket, passed on defense work in order to mollify unhappy employees, there were plenty of smaller tech firms willing to fill the vacuum. The question then was how to manage them. Government contract managers are understandably cautious of spending taxpayer dollars on untested technology from an unproven vendor.

And some of the wariness is mutual, notes Masiello. In 2014, she became a lieutenant general overseeing the Defense Contract Management Agency based at Fort Lee, Va., which has responsibility for negotiating all contracts for the Department of Defense as well as other agencies—placing her at the nexus of many of these issues. (She retired from the military in 2017 and is now an independent consultant.)

One sticking point in particular, she noted, was intellectual property. Innovative technology companies might want government funding in the early stages of developing a new technology, but they were unsurprisingly cautious when negotiating a deal that limited their ability to commercialize it later on. “In some cases, companies have done a good job in R&D, and then when they get to the production phase of a contract, they walk away from the opportunity because they don’t want to give up their rights to the government,” Masiello says. “So a big question in the contracting world is, How do we protect and encourage innovators to work with us while also allowing us to protect our investment?”

To create opportunities for startups to work with the government, more contract managers are experimenting with an arrangement called the consortia model, whereby the government taps a third party—often a nonprofit—to manage a contract that draws contributions from a number of different startups and small businesses.

“In consortia models, we group around expertise,” says Kraig Conrad, CEO of the National Contract Management Association, an organization in Ashburn, Va., whose members include government contracting officers and the companies with whom they do business. (Masiello is president-elect of NCMA’s board.)

“It provides nontraditional startups, who often say that working with the federal government slows us down, with a vehicle to participate in a contract,” Conrad says. “And it’s a method for the government to tap into development skills or power a programming need.”

Cybersecurity can be a thorny issue when working with startups—“some of whom do not share military cybersecurity concerns,” Masiello notes—whether under the traditional contracting model or within these new kinds of arrangements. As the government works with more technology suppliers, the exposure to hacks and ransomware attacks—and responsibility for mitigating them—is a huge area of focus for contractors and contractor managers today.

Tellingly, this concern reflects one of the shifts that has happened over the past two decades in terms of national security policy. Increasingly it seems as if the forces that would do us harm have pivoted, and are instead trying to steal our data or compromise our essential operating systems, whether it be the SolarWinds or Colonial Pipeline hack.

President Joe Biden convened a group of CEOs, including Amazon’s Andy Jassy, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Apple’s Tim Cook, on the topic in August. “We’ve seen time and again how the technologies we rely on—from our cell phones to pipelines to the electric grid—can become targets of hackers and criminals. At the same time, our skilled cybersecurity workforce has not grown fast enough to keep pace,” Biden said. “The reality is most of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government can’t meet this challenge alone.”

As the government looks to the private sector for help on this crucial issue, Masiello’s logic from the morning of 9/11 applies: The government should be contracting for the type of technology you need when you don’t exactly know what’s coming your way. But it’s doubly hard to know what that is in a world where the threats are not physical but technological. How well the government learns to work with technology suppliers will ultimately determine how well equipped the U.S. is to meet the growing cybersecurity challenge. Twenty years ago, few would have imagined the abstract-seeming but no less worrying dangers we would face today.

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