As Prepared For Delivery:
Good morning, everyone. Director Inglis, thank you for hosting us and for your leadership standing up the Office of the National Cyber Director. It’s great to work together again. For me, this Summit is a bit of a blast from the past. In my previous role as President Obama’s National Security Advisor, I started every day with the President’s Daily Brief, tracking all manner of threats to our nation, including cyber threats. Hackers probing power plants and other critical infrastructure. Cyber theft of sensitive commercial data. Election interference.
Those threats have only multiplied in recent years, yet we have work to do to build a cybersecurity workforce that can adequately counter them. There are 700,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in America, as you’ve heard. At the same time, the cyber field is not yet representative of our nation, with women comprising less than a quarter of cybersecurity workers, just 9 percent identifying as Black, and only 4 percent as Hispanic. We have to do better. Not in service of some ideal, but because America is safer and stronger when we bring everybody to the table.
Since Day One, the Biden-Harris Administration has been working hard to ensure that our public servants reflect the unparalleled talent and diversity of our nation. In the early weeks of the Administration, President Biden issued a National Security Memorandum to revitalize and modernize our national security workforce, including directing his Administration to identify barriers that prevent Americans from pursuing and advancing in national security careers and develop strategies to improve recruitment and retention. In June last year, the President signed an Executive Order launching a whole-of-government effort to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across the federal workforce. This EO has resulted in dozens of agency plans to advance and embed DEIA principles, including among the federal government’s cyber workforce.
But, that’s just the start. Simply put: part of helping a company like Colonial Pipeline protect itself is building a much better cybersecurity job pipeline. That’s what this Summit is about.
Building that pipeline must start with our youngest minds. Because that same lack of representation we see in the cybersecurity workforce shows up in high school and even earlier. Of students who took the computer science AP exam in 2019, only 29 percent were women, 16 percent were Hispanic, and 6 percent were Black. Some of that is because we need to get a broader cross-section of students to be interested in and feel welcome in fields like cyber. We also need to address the underlying disparities in access to rigorous coursework— including computer science—which is why President Biden has proposed tripling federal funding for high-poverty schools to help close these gaps. States and school districts must also take action to close these gaps.
To further prepare our students, I’m pleased to announce that the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education at the Department of Commerce will make its Cybersecurity Workforce Framework—which provides a range of cyber curricula and resources—easier for K-12 teachers to use. In addition, the National Security Agency is supporting a Department of Education initiative that will help middle schools put in place career and technical education programs focused on emerging career pathways, such as space and cybersecurity.
When our young people are ready to join the workforce, we need to create new pathways for graduates who would typically find a cyber career out of reach. That includes leveraging our community colleges. Expanding skills-based training and hiring practices that focus on an applicant’s abilities and not only on their academic credentials. Bolstering apprenticeships and non-traditional training opportunities, as Secretary Walsh just mentioned.
These are important steps. But, government can’t do this alone. We need to diversify who takes cybersecurity courses at colleges and universities. We need cybersecurity workplaces to bring in and mentor cyber professionals from non-traditional backgrounds. We need companies and organizations to expand apprenticeships and partner with high schools and community colleges.
I’m grateful to see so many organizations and institutions taking up this challenge today. As President Biden has said, we have “the power, the capacity, and the responsibility… to raise the bar on cybersecurity.” Working together, let’s flex that power. Let’s shoulder that responsibility. Let’s raise the bar and make our nation more secure in cyberspace, more inclusive here at home, and more competitive in the world. Thank you, and I’ll now turn it over to our Secretary of Homeland Security, Ali Mayorkas.