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DHS to Meet with Tech Companies in Silicon Valley Next Week

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson // Andrew Harnik/AP

The Department of Homeland Security’s newly opened Silicon Valley branch office is hosting a meet-and-greet with tech companies next week to discuss competing for government business and how companies can help the government secure the Internet of Things.

DHS announced the meeting in a Dec. 2 notice.

The agency is targeting “nontraditional small business, startups and investors” to participate in the industry day, which will be held Dec. 10 at the headquarters of the nonprofit research institute SRI International in Menlo Park, California -- just a stone’s throw from the headquarters of American tech giants Facebook and Google.

The purpose of the confab is to describe “homeland security challenges” associated with the Internet of Things, discuss how DHS’ Silicon Valley innovation program works and show companies how they can apply for DHS funding.

DHS announced it was opening a Silicon Valley outpost earlier this year. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in April the new post would help “strengthen critical relationships in Silicon Valley.” The relationship between tech companies and the U.S. government has often been fraught over issues, such as encryption and surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Johnson said the satellite office could also be helpful in recruiting top tech talent into government.

In an October blog post, DHS Undersecretary for Science and Technology Reginald Brothers said the agency’s West Coast branch office plans to “co-invest in promising technologies to accelerate transition to market, demonstrate and pilot near-term technologies and fund new research and development using forward-leaning acquisition methods, many not new but rarely employed.”

In addition to IoT security, other projects could include aviation security, biological threats, counterterrorism, border security and cybersecurity.

Last year, the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, which advises DHS, issued a report warning that the federal government had only five years to secure the growing proliferation of Internet-connected devices and sensors.

“There is a small -- and rapidly closing -- window to ensure that IoT is adopted in a way that maximizes security and minimizes risk,” the committee wrote in a report to President Barack Obama. “If the country fails to do so, it will be coping with the consequences for generations.”

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