The U.S. needs more cybersecurity professionals to ensure the security and resilience of our critical infrastructure and facilitate the uninterrupted functioning of our finance, utility, communications sectors, and more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average growth rate for most occupations is 11 percent but predicts a 37 percent increase in cyber-related occupation growth through the year 2020. This pace is phenomenal, and when you factor in the lack of qualified applicants to fill these roles, it quickly becomes clear that investment in cyber security skills development is critical.
Cybersecurity is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. It is so important, Congress and the White House have identified cybersecurity competitions as a way to combat the challenge in several national strategy documents, including the National Strategy to Secure Cyber Space (Priority III: Training and Education), the White House Cyberspace Policy Review (Near and Mid Term Actions), the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, and the DHS Secretary’s Cyber Skills Task Force.
One way the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Cyber Security Division (CSD) invests in the development of our future workforce is by sponsoring cybersecurity competitions. In the interest of creating smarter competitions, CSD develops strategies that incorporate new and emerging technologies into competitions. CSD also funds tools to assist participants in the management of the diverse competition landscape, allowing them to take charge of their own development and instruction.
Since 2008, CSD has sponsored and provided funding for the cyber-equivalent of March Madness. The National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) plays out across the country from January through the end of April. Just making the team is an accomplishment; more than 100 students compete to win a spot on each participating college’s twelve-person team (including alternates). Teams compete head-to-head at regional competitions, with the winning teams representing each of the 10 regions at the national competition in San Antonio, Texas, April 24-26.
During the finals, teams demonstrate critical cybersecurity skills by defending a small business network in an operational environment, from active and persistent attack, while maintaining business functionality. Each year, the NCCDC features S&T-developed technologies addressing existing cybersecurity gaps that could impact national security. This experience provides students the opportunity to gain experience with emerging technologies that they can take with them to the professional world, while S&T receives valuable operational feedback on the functionality and vulnerabilities of their technology.
Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s competition, especially to those who are competing this week at the national level. I look forward to working with you in the future as we continue to strengthen cybersecurity and protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology