Tucson, AZ

May 30, 2024

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Good Morning –

Thank you, Madam Chancellor, Dr. Dolores Durán-Cerda for hosting us here today at Pima Community College.

Thank you to students and faculty joining us today as well as community partners – including many of you from the University of Arizona.

I appreciate your work to build a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem here in Tucson.

And thank you to those representing the Arizona congressional delegation. You all are very important partners in our work.

I’m pleased to be here in Tucson, and specifically at Pima Community College, because you are doing great, important work to build our Nation’s cybersecurity workforce. I got to see it first-hand and I’m excited by what you all are doing here.

You’re providing students with both knowledge and hands-on learning, and creating employees who are not only ready to go on day-one, but who also have valuable experience learning about new technologies on the fly.

You all have truly taken on a skills-based approach which, not only opens up pathways to good-paying jobs, it also future-proofs our workforce to new developments and disruptions, like the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence we are seeing today.

When individuals have the skills and ability to learn new technologies, it creates a dynamic, resilient workforce that can meet the demands and challenges of the future.

Today, I was genuinely impressed and encouraged to see how your academic leaders, faculty, and students have worked together to create a first-rate cybersecurity program.

The strong relationship between Pima Community College and the University of Arizona illustrates the power of creating pathways of opportunity for students to continue advancing their education.

And I applaud both institutions on their recent collaboration with the CyberNet Middle Grades Expansion Accelerator that is concluding this academic year.  

CyberNet is a career technical education program, funded by the Department of Education in collaboration with several other Federal agencies. It aims to increase the number of teachers who can effectively prepare students for cybersecurity careers. And it is making an impact by building the pipeline of talent our Nation so desperately needs.

I am proud of the Biden-Harris Administration’s support of important programs like this one. And I was tremendously encouraged to hear from many of you this morning about how you are proactively building our Nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

We can only advance our cyber workforce by expanding the reach of cyber education, starting at the earliest grade levels and reaching these students across disciplines. I am so very pleased to see that we have some of the middle grade teachers from that program with us here today. Thank you all for your important and inspiring work.

This morning, it was truly inspiring to see the cybersecurity learning opportunities made available through the student-run Data Center, a “live-fire” cyber warfare range, and how students are getting exposure to real-time threats in the Cyber Security Operations Center. This type of hands-on learning in a real-life IT environment offers a tremendous experience to students here as they prepare to join the cyber workforce.

It’s yet another best practice I’ve witnessed today.

While slightly more than 21,000 Arizonans are currently employed in cyber careers; last year, we had 9,200 open cybersecurity jobs in Arizona. And almost 1,000 of those open jobs are here in the Tucson region. 

Nationwide, we have similar challenges. To secure our Nation’s cyberspace, we need to fill the more than 500,000 open cyber jobs in the U.S. and we do that by making cyber jobs more available and attainable for groups that traditionally haven’t been represented in the cyber workforce to include veterans, single parents, Latinos, women and those who are  socioeconomically disadvantaged.

This commitment to achieving positive mission outcomes by expanding the talent pool in cyber is particularly relevant here in Tucson where you have Pima Community College and the University of Arizona both designated as Hispanic-serving institutions as well as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity.

Both Pima Community College and the University of Arizona are preparing students for good-paying jobs in cybersecurity. And they’re preparing students to protect our increasingly digital world in every industry that needs it.

In the panel to follow, I’m looking forward to hearing more about how you all in Tucson are increasing assess to careers in cybersecurity.

You are doing it right and I’m excited to listen and learn from you so we can take what you’re doing here and spread it across the Nation.

And here’s why that’s important: To achieve the best mission outcomes, we need the best possible team. 

That means we need a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives in the cyber workforce. We need more people seeing themselves in our community. We need more people being trained in technical fields. And we need more ways for them to join our ranks. You all are leading the way here in Tucson. And to be very clear, no standards are being lowered.

Earlier today, I heard directly from some of your students who shared their stories of how they came to consider a career in cyber. Hearing the enthusiasm and determination in their voices reassures me that we are on the right path to developing a resilient and dedicated cyber workforce.

I heard from Aurora Sardina, an Iraq war veteran, mother, Latina, Tohono O’odham member – and now cybersecurity expert.

After completing a phase of her service to our country in the military, she looked to cyber to provide a stable, fulfilling next step in her career.

She came here to Pima Community College and was one of the first students to benefit from hands-on experience working in the student-run data center, putting into practice the concepts she was learning in her classes. She earned her associate’s degree and enrolled at the University of Arizona to gain further training in cyber operations.

She plans to use her newfound expertise to continue to serve her country and community.

I had the chance to meet Aurora this morning. She was a victim of identity theft has taken what she’s learned here, truly understands the value of cybersecurity, and is continuing her service.

One of the best parts of visiting places like Pima Community College is the opportunity to hear directly from people like Aurora. She is bringing her incredible experience to the cyber field.

She knows what I know – as a fellow veteran – you can continue serving our Nation with a career in cybersecurity.

The work Aurora is pursuing – that you all are pursing – whether it be for the Federal Government or for a company, a school district, the state or county government, or any other organization – if you’re in cybersecurity, you are protecting our Nation.

So please stand so we can acknowledge you, Aurora. Thank you.

I know that many of you are participating in apprenticeships, starting new jobs this summer, or continuing your education. Every one of these paths reinforces the importance of being a lifelong learner – a necessary skill in our business. It is inspiring to witness and speaks to the urgency of our work. Your path ahead is an important one.

In our office in the White House, we are focused on supporting meaningful pathways to good-paying jobs in cyber.

Last July, President Biden released the National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy. Since that time, we’ve engaged with communities across the country to spur the development of ecosystems of workers, educators, employers, and others. We have worked together with these groups – and a growing list of partners – to expand access and increase diverse participation in cyber education and training. 

One way we are advancing this goal is by encouraging a skills-based approach to cyber roles. Just this month, the Biden-Harris Administration committed to converting an entire series of technical employees that work in every Federal agency, and represent a majority of the Federal IT workforce, to skills-based hiring. Alongside this change, the Administration is making a similar commitment to Federal contractors who work shoulder-to-shoulder supporting Federal employees every day.

This commitment marks an important moment in the vital work to build the Nation’s cybersecurity workforce, a mission that is imperative to our national security and economic prosperity in an increasingly digital world. With this move, we hope – as the Federal Government – to lead by example, ensuring that more Americans like the students studying here at Pima with valuable hands-on experience will have access to cybersecurity jobs in the Federal Government whether they are an employee or a contractor.

To meet the cyber workforce demand, we need both high quality educational institutions and Federal investments that prioritize cybersecurity. I’m happy to report that the Biden-Harris Administration has responded to that demand and is committed to investing in Arizona’s success.

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

Of the $7.9 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding headed to the Grand Canyon State, Arizona received $1.6 billion to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access to everyone in the state.

$11 million has been awarded to Arizona institutions serving minority and tribal communities through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Over $30.2 million were awarded here in Pima County, funding a Regional Middle Mile Fiber Optic Ring to ensure that affordable, reliable, and accessible high-speed broadband services can be provided to as many communities as possible—through a 134-mile contiguous open access fiber network ring surrounding the outer area of greater Tucson, Arizona and surrounding rural communities.

These are all really important investments in Arizona’s digital infrastructure.

We’re also helping support vital cybersecurity programs statewide.

$6.7 million has been awarded through the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant program to address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems in Arizona.

And, thanks to additional Federal investments, the Arizona Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Readiness Program provides $10 million for rural school districts, local Governments, and tribes throughout the state.

That’s real commitment and tangible progress, but 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.

Everywhere we go, we find new partners willing to commit to helping us build the cyber workforce we need.

Today, I’m excited to announce that the Department of Defense, through the DoD Cyber Service Academy program, will commit to funding 195 scholarships offers nationwide. They build on the 168 scholarships already provided this past year.

Each scholarship promotes higher education in all cyber disciplines, enhances DoD’s ability to recruit and retain cyber specialists, increases the number of military and civilian personnel in the DoD with cyber expertise, and ultimately enhances the Nation’s cyber posture. The program reflects the dedication of DoD and Congress to support higher education as a means to prepare the DoD workforce and protect critical information system and networks for the department and the nation.

Let me close with a reminder about 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.

Thank you.

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