Fayetteville, North Carolina

March 20, 2024

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning!

Let me begin by thanking our co-hosts, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Carolina Cyber Network (CCN), for arranging this important event.

Thank you to Dr. Mark Sorrells, President of FTCC and co-leadership of CCN, for your leadership and dedication to your students and this community.

And thank you, Carolina Cyber Network Co-Executive Director, David Thompson, for being a champion for North Carolina.

On behalf of the Biden Administration, I am honored to be here today. I am sure my colleague, Deputy Director Rob Shriver from the Office of Personnel Management, feels the same.

We’re pleased to be joined by Liz O’Brien, the Executive Director of Hiring Our Heroes.

And by Major General Colin Tuley, Deputy Commanding General XVIII Airborne Corps. General. Thank you for being here and for your exceptional leadership and service.

Finally, I want to especially welcome and thank the Blue Star Families with us today.

I’ve had the honor to serve as the National Cyber Director for over 3 months now. This is my third trip outside of DC – each time, visiting a fantastic school, in a city where the community has come together to connect those who want a career in cybersecurity with the training, the encouragement, and the jobs they need.

Today, I couldn’t be happier to be here at Fayetteville Tech, with partners from across the Carolina Cyber Network, and to be among so many members of the military and veterans community.

I served 20 years in the United States Navy.

I am the son of – a Navy spouse and a Navy Chief – so I know what it means to be a part of the military family before you put on the uniform.

I also know what it means to continue protecting your Nation after you take it off. When it’s time for your next mission.

In my current role as the National Cyber Director, I want to take a moment and share with you why cybersecurity is so important to our national security.

Today, we are completely reliant on a digital backbone that facilitates everything from the power, gas, and water coming into our homes to the systems that keep our roads, bridges, airports, schools, hospitals, businesses functioning, and to our soldiers at Fort Liberty as well as those that are forward deployed.

We are more connected, more efficient, and more empowered than at any point in human history.

We are also more dependent on this technology than ever before.

With this connectivity comes the threat of attack on that digital foundation. There’s a lot we need to do – and are doing – to better protect our Nation and its critical infrastructure in cyberspace.

Throughout my years in the Navy, the Intelligence Community, and the private sector, I’ve come to understand that everything comes down to people.

And in cybersecurity, we need to find, hire, develop, empower, and inspire more people to help us fill the half-million open cybersecurity positions across the Nation.

In North Carolina, there are over 18,000 open jobs in cybersecurity.

Many of these jobs are in rural and suburban areas – not just big cities.

Many of these jobs do not require a 4-year college degree.

Many of these jobs allow you to work remotely.

And all of these jobs are important to the security of our Nation’s critical infrastructure.

The only way we can defend the foundation for our modern way of life is to ensure that everyone has a pathway into a cyber-based career. 

And, from what I’ve seen today, I can confidently say that North Carolina has the talent and the desire to serve. We must ensure that more of you have the training, encouragement, and pathway to these jobs.

I’d like to share the story of someone whose path into cyber brought her right here to FTCC.

Rhiannon Holley, a military spouse, FTCC alumna, and a member of the FTCC faculty, joins us today.

Rhiannon knew, when she was growing up as one of four siblings, that in order to be the first in her family to go to college, she’d have to “be the smart kid.”

Her plan was to join the Navy in the hopes of one day attending college. That was put aside when she married her husband, Marcus. Three months after their first son was born, he deployed.

Four years later, she was raising two boys and eventually came to understand that she wanted to do more.

Rhiannon stumbled into I-T and eventually into cyber – mainly through her own curiosity.

She started by taking one class at a time at FTCC.

While she spent time taking care of her husband, who came back injured from Afghanistan, she started work at FTCC as an administrative secretary. Soon enough, she graduated from the cyber program, earned multiple certifications and participated in many cyber competitions.

It wasn’t long until she was asked if she’d be willing to teach. An introvert by nature, Rhiannon’s first reaction was to say, “absolutely not!” But good mentors at FTCC encouraged her.

Today, Rhiannon is the Department Chair of the Cyber Program at FTCC, and her husband works at FTCC, too – a power couple!

“Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “I still do the cyber things. Get my hands on the keyboard. That’s my passion. But teaching here is my calling.”

Rhiannon, you exemplify not only why military spouses are amazing, resilient people, but your story demonstrates how you can find your purpose with some curiosity and tenacity. Thank you for forging a path into cybersecurity and paving that path for many to follow.

To people like Rhiannon – and this has been true for me too – we see that a career in cybersecurity is one that offers that sense of purpose.

Whether you work in government, in the private sector, or in academia – you are helping secure our Nation.

You can do that with a good-paying job.

And, – I appreciate this may be particularly helpful to military spouses because I know from personal experience that you’re often picking up and moving to a new city – many of the jobs in cybersecurity can be done remotely, potentially making them ideal for your family’s needs.

So, a career in cyber is a good fit for veterans and military spouses.

At the same time, employers are coming to understand that veterans and military spouses can be fantastic employees, leaders, and members of their teams.

They are mission-driven, service-oriented, and highly disciplined. They are leaders and good teammates.

Joining us today is Ronnie Hutchins, a long-time North Carolinian studying here at Fayetteville Tech and preparing for a new career in cybersecurity.

Ronnie served 20 years in the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer and Black Hawk helicopter test pilot. After his service in uniform, Ronnie continued to protect his community in law enforcement. He worked his way up from conducting patrols at the Fayetteville Police Department to becoming one of the East Coast’s leading detectives combatting human trafficking – thanks, Ronnie for taking on another important task.

Ronnie is someone that understands what it means to serve, protect and defend. He doesn’t just understand it. He lives it.

And now, Ronnie is gaining his security certifications and looking to continue – in his next tour of service – to contribute to the safety and security of his community in cybersecurity.

Ronnie, you exemplify the spirit of service that we so badly need in our field. I wish you success in your studies and thank you for your continued service to the security of our Nation.

To the veterans who have been trained in IT while you were in the service – whenever you decide to conclude your military service, I’m asking you to consider continuing to serve your country by pursuing a career in cyber.

Rob and his colleagues at OPM, along with partners at the VA and other agencies, are working hard to bring veterans and military spouses into the federal government.

But I want you to understand that you also protect our Nation when you provide your skills to state and local governments, schools, hospitals, transportation companies, and airports. Whether you serve in the public or private sector, a career in cybersecurity can put you on the frontlines, protecting our way of life.

To the veterans and military spouses who have not had a career or even considered cyber – today, I’m asking you to consider a role in cybersecurity.

Here’s how you can forge your path:

Consider an apprenticeship. We love apprenticeships because you can earn money while you’re getting hands-on learning in a dynamic and growing field.

Three of 149 apprentice programs in North Carolina employ more than 100 Veteran apprentices at places like the Fort Liberty Education Center, Pike Electric LLC, and the North Carolina National Guard.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to expanding apprenticeships. A few weeks ago, the Department of Labor announced an additional $200 million in grants for states and organizations. These grants expand access to training and career preparation.

Another pathway into cyber – consider getting a certification or a two–or four-year degree. I know more than a dozen college presidents here today would love to have you!

And I know that many private sector companies offer training as well. I’ll talk about some companies that are stepping up shortly.

I want to make sure that the non-veterans hear me too. It will take all of us to build the cyber workforce that this Nation needs. To the students here and in colleges from across North Carolina – we need you as well.

North Carolina is doing great things to build a skilled cyber workforce.

So many of you at the Carolina Cyber Network understand that we need to meet people where they are – in their lives, in their careers, perhaps in their transition out of the military. We need to meet them where they are and help them get the skills they need to succeed.

Academic institutions, industry leaders, government officials, and civil society representatives are breaking down silos to expand the cyber workforce and strengthen the cyber resiliency of their communities: the North Carolina Partnership for Cybersecurity Excellence and the Carolina Cyber Network have worked to create cyber communities that are greater than the sum of their parts.

The partnership between Fayetteville Technical Community College, part of the Carolina Cyber Network, serves as a beacon – creating a robust ecosystem that helps expand opportunities for all students. Especially impressive is the support for military spouses and upskilling and reskilling of transitioning veterans in the cyber workforce here in North Carolina and across the country.

Those of us in Washington want to ensure we’re investing in North Carolina’s success.

The President’s Investing In America Agenda has delivered for North Carolina, especially when it comes to our digital infrastructure and security.

Of the $6.6 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding headed to the Tar Heel State, North Carolina has received $1.5 billion to help provide high-speed internet access across the state.

Over $27 million has been awarded to North Carolina institutions serving minority and tribal communities through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Fayetteville State – which is joining us here today – received $4.9 million through this program.

Also, $10.8 million has been awarded through the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant program to address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems in North Carolina.

Filling the hundreds of thousands of cyber jobs in this Nation will require unprecedented coordination across the public and private sectors, employers, schools, and more.

Over the course of the last year, many organizations have proactively stepped up to help veterans and military spouses.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) announced a Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program for Veterans.

CyberSkills2Work committed to adding 1,520 cybersecurity professionals by expanding support to first responders, military spouses, women, underrepresented minorities, and government personnel.

ICS Village, SANS Institute, Siemens Energy, and their partners plan to launch a Registered Apprenticeship focused on veterans and transitioning military members.

And Task Force Movement (TFM), a non-profit serving veterans, is committed to funding 50 award recipients to pursue quality certification courses.

Today in North Carolina, I’m pleased to announce new commitments that will benefit the veteran and military communities and the broader cybersecurity ecosystem.

Offensive Security is donating one million dollars in scholarships to bring more people into the cyber workforce.

Rapid Strategy, a company headquartered in North Carolina, is committing to working through the Skillbridge program and local universities to hire a diverse array of North Carolinians. 

KSE is offering 100 scholarships for their apprenticeship training program to veterans and military-connected family members.

Deloitte is expanding its Waypoint program by 20% this year, enabling 65 veterans to learn more about cyber and other high-tech jobs. 

Pearson is committing to opening their entry-level cyber training and testing at all North Carolina testing centers for free.

ISC2, will provide a minimum of 25,000 military members with their foundational Certified in Cybersecurity certification exam and training for free.

And Amazon is working to provide their AWS Academy Program curriculum in cloud security to the students right here at FTCC.

These partners, and so many others, are vital to our success, a topic I know Liz O’Brien will talk more about.

Let me close with a reminder of the importance of our mission.

We defend cyberspace not because it is some distant terrain on which we battle our adversaries.

We defend cyberspace because it is interwoven into our very lives – because it underpins the critical systems that enable us to work, live, and play – because it is a matter of national security.

We need all of you to join us, so that all Americans can benefit from the enormous potential of our interconnected future.

I look forward to learning from you, working with you, and standing alongside you in defending our great Nation.

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