Tulsa, Oklahoma

June 20, 2004

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning!

Thank You Tyrance [Billingsley] for that introduction and for the incredible work you and your colleagues at Black Tech Street are doing to energize and empower the community here in Tulsa.

Thank you Mayor [G.T.] Bynum for welcoming us to Tulsa and for your leadership.

And Justin [Kitts], we really appreciate your work to bring cybersecurity to the forefront here in Tulsa and expand opportunities across the community.

And a special thanks to our new friends at the University of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute for a wonderful visit this morning. It was wonderful to meet with the students, staff and faulty. They are great partners.

It’s wonderful to be at the beautiful campus at Oklahoma State University in the historic Greenwood District.

I’m so honored to be here and to stand before this diverse audience of community leaders, elected officials, students, educators, and employers.

Tulsa is where I wanted to be on Juneteenth.

I am aware that today I stand on sacred ground, addressing you within the historic Greenwood District here in Tulsa.

Today, I’ll have the opportunity to visit the site of Black Wall Street, a space where African Americans – for many generations following the Civil War – thrived.

While I will never forget how our ancestors thrived, I do wish they knew how thrilled I am to honor their memory and honor their legacy.

More than 100 years after their work began to create not only a self-sustaining business district, but economic opportunity and generational wealth, we stand here on their shoulders. And we are here again, looking to innovation. And to hope. Their bold and fearless example is what we remember and what we allow to inspire us today.

Today, in Tulsa, I see that this community, our community, is not only remembering the truth of what happened during those horrible days, but this community is taking actions to rebuild its economy in ways that are inclusive, forward-looking and fully embracing the technology that is defining not only today but also tomorrow while honoring your yesterday along the way.

The opportunities in cybersecurity that we are discussing here today can not only employ, but empower the residents of Tulsa, much like O.W. Gurley, J.B. Stradford and John and Loula Williams did for Greenwood over a century ago

And that’s what I want to talk about today: opportunity. Opportunity for this community. Opportunity for all Oklahomans. And opportunities for all Americans.

I’m truly excited by your interest in learning about and contributing to the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to expand the cyber workforce, to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, especially historically underrepresented groups.

It is not lost on me that the real work of putting action behind our strategies and plans doesn’t happen back in Washington, but here in communities like Tulsa that are coming together, working together, to develop meaningful partnerships between higher education institutions, employers, non-profit organizations, and the people — the job seekers — who are the focus of our commitment to this work.

I wish everyone a Happy Juneteenth, as we recognize that on yesterday, June 19, 2024, our Nation officially celebrated the Juneteenth Holiday, which President Biden signed into law on June 17, 2021.

On that day, at the Signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, President Biden stated, “…We must understand that Juneteenth represents not only the commemoration of the end of slavery in America more than 150 years ago, but the ongoing work… to bring true equity and racial justice into American society, which we can do. In short, this day doesn’t just celebrate the past; it calls for action today.”

In that spirit of action, as the National Cyber Director, I’m honored to represent the Biden-Harris Administration here today in our effort to support bold actions to meet the cyber workforce demand, especially ensuring that we’re creating pathways of opportunity for groups who have historically been underrepresented in emerging technology fields.

From my own experience, I can tell you how impactful it can be to show up and encourage someone who might not otherwise see someone like themself in a career-field like ours. 

In my case, it was a Navy recruiter who visited my high school in Parsons, Kansas, about 100 miles north of Tulsa. He had an outsized impact on my decision to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and – ultimately – to commit my life to serving the American people. That recruiter made me aware of an opportunity that almost bypassed me. That’s why I’m joining forces with Black Tech Street, Greenwood Rising and the City of Tulsa. I know that we need to find talent and provide opportunities to serve.

It was in the Navy where I recognized the importance of what is now known as cyberspace. Back then, we didn’t call it “cybersecurity.” I’ve been proud to work at the intersection of technology and national security ever since.

Fast forward several decades and now, everywhere I’ve gone, businesses tell me they need cyber workers. So we need to continue investing in cybersecurity education and inviting people who are currently underrepresented in the cyber workforce to consider careers in this field.

While slightly more than 9,000 Oklahomans are currently employed in cyber careers; last year, we had over 4,100 open cybersecurity jobs in Oklahoma. And more than 700 of those open jobs are here in the Tulsa region. 

Nationwide, we have similar challenges. To secure our Nation’s cyberspace, we need to fill the nearly 500,000 open cyber jobs in the United States 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 Native Americans, African Americans, women, veterans, single parents, 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 Tulsa where The University of Tulsa is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. It was remarkable to visit their Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute this morning. Really great work happening there.

Tulsa’s cyber ecosystem is also enriched by Black Tech Street’s comprehensive partnership with Microsoft and Greenwood is expected to enhance the Tulsa ecosystem’s capacity to produce and attract Black tech talent. With an emphasis on cyber, this initiative’s first major milestone consists of getting 865 Black Tulsans in tech jobs by the year 2030, a number which would bring the percentage of Tulsa’s Black tech workforce on par with the national Black population.

While initially anchoring jobs, this effort is expected to ultimately encompass workforce development, entrepreneurship, and academia as the three key components for achieving these transformative job opportunities in Tulsa.

Later this afternoon, I’m looking forward to hearing more about how you all in Tulsa are increasing access to careers in cybersecurity.

From what we’ve heard and seen, 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. And right now, America’s cybersecurity team is almost 500,000 people short.

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. We need opportunities for all. And we need more ways for them to join our ranks. 

You are developing a model here in Tulsa. And to be very clear, no standards are being lowered.

Earlier today, I heard directly from University of Tulsa 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, dedicated, and impactful cyber workforce.

I want you to be assured that the Biden-Harris Administration is not only committed to making sure more people see themselves in cyber, but we are also committed to making Federal investments that will both enhance our national security, and create significant economic development opportunities leading to good-paying jobs here in Tulsa and across the state of Oklahoma.

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 participation in cyber education and training. 

One way we are advancing this goal is by encouraging a skills-based approach to cyber roles. Skills-based hiring focuses on individuals abilities, competencies, and aptitude rather than their formal education and degrees. Just last month, the 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 will – as the Federal Government –lead by example, ensuring that more Americans like the students I met earlier today at the University of Tulsa will have access to cybersecurity jobs in the Federal Government whether they are an employee or a contractor.

To meet the cyber workforce demand in our increasingly digital world, 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 Oklahoma’s success.

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

Of the $6.1 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding headed to The Sooner State, Oklahoma received $2 billion to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access to everyone in the state. Over 350,000 households in Oklahoma are saving on high-speed internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program under the Biden Administration.

$3.7 million has been awarded to Tulsa-area institutions serving minority and tribal communities through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program. Specifically, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology received $754,900 and Northeastern State University was awarded $2.9 million.  

These are all really important investments in Oklahoma’s digital infrastructure. And we’re also helping support vital cybersecurity programs statewide.

$9.9 million has been awarded through the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant program to address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems in Oklahoma.

That’s real commitment and tangible progress, but filling the hundreds of thousands of cyber jobs in our Nation will require unprecedented coordination across the public and private sectors, employers, schools, and more.

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

To that end, 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 economic prosperity and national security.

We need more talented, dedicated, capable individuals to join us in the cyber workforce. 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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