Defense Department ties with Silicon Valley could grow with Space Force plan

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The Defense Department already has a foothold in the Silicon Valley, an office where it keeps tabs on startups and new technology.

Those ties will likely grow if the plan to create a Space Force moves forward.

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Today's warfighters, as the Pentagon likes to call our troops, already benefit from a wide range of advanced technology.

The plan to create a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. Military comes at a time when the White House would like to see an $8 billion increase in space defense system spending.

The U.S. Air Force is working on new antenna systems attached to origami-like backing that could tweak communications in space.

"It's very much in the prototyping stage, very fundamental research stages," said Air Force Research Lab's Abigail Juhl.

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Major defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, were reluctant to discuss the proposed Space Force at this technology conference. But the chief technology officer of the event organizer, NextFlex, sees greater collaboration involving government, startups and established contractors.
"Defense wants a supply chain that can leverage commercial volumes. Industry wants to harness the advanced technology that's really too expensive to invest for any individual startup," said NextFlex Chief Technology Officer Jason Marsh.

UC San Diego and Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, are working on wearable technology to monitor glucose and lactate in humans, which has caught the eye of the Defense Department's director of engineering enterprise, Robert Gold.

"Some of the wearable technologies in which we can monitor what's going on in someone's body as part of an integral part of their clothing, tremendous opportunity to move that very rapidly into the field," said Gold.

Professor Hong Yeo is also working on a system so brain signals can control drones.

"Any time those areas all succeed economically and technically, it's wonderful for the country. It's great for the DOD," Gold said.

It will be a national effort with Silicon Valley playing a major role.
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