Friday, May 15, 2009

Why getting the Cyber Command should not be surprising to those of us who work with the city's large base of retired cyber security professionals

County Judge Nelson Wolff said in a published article in the Express News Thursday that he was surprised that the Air Force selected San Antonio as the final site to get the newly formed Cyber Command.

As someone with ties to some of the early leaders of the information security arena, I'm not.

Sadly, it's not a well publicized fact that San Antonio has a large influx of retired information security professionals. Many have worked at what is called by insiders as the "Hill." After serving their nation in protecting our country, they have left the military with their special clearances and skill sets to either go back into contracting positions or form new companies. Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, wrote a master thesis on the need to protect military computers from hackers in 1985. His paper became the starting point for the establishment of the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team at Kelly AFB in the early 90s. After retiring from the military, Frederick formed SecureInfo.

Now, add the National Security Agency and other operations like it, and it's obvious why the Air Force picked our town for its new operation. For IT businesses with contractors who have the right clearances, this is great news.

Yet, San Antonio shouldn't rest on its laurels after winning the establishment of a new command. I argued nearly a decade ago that UTSA should consider setting up a special short course for information security with the Air Force. Similar to the University of Oklahoma's short course for public affairs, this is a program where the best officers and NCOs attend a 9-week course to study computer security. Perhaps, there is a program in place with CIAS and the military, but I doubt it. With the addition of 400 new positions, it would make sense that UTSA would discuss a program that would provide education for info security professionals throughout the military.

As an industry group, information security types don't publicly share facts or data about their successes, so I can understand why Judge Wolff doesn't know all of the success stories that San Antonio has developed with information security through the years. Still, the city should do more to encourage the development of training and education programs not only with UTSA but with other programs. One of the challenges that the Air Force will someday face is the loss of talented intelligent analysts to retirement.

With the community's help, the Air Force can grow and expand its depth of intelligence professionals.

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