Springs cyber center takes shape

With a new website, promised funding, a new nonprofit with a new chairman of the board of directors, the state’s National Cyber Intelligence Center is taking shape.

And it’s coming together quickly, says Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

Suthers and a group of Colorado Springs residents that included UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak visited the state capital last week and were told that the budget would include money for the NCIC.

The current “long bill,” as the budget bill is called, under consideration by the General Assembly includes $8 million to renovate the TRW building on North Nevada Avenue, chosen as the site for the new cybersecurity center.

“The governor’s been very supportive,” Suthers said. “And of course, the building won’t require that much renovation. It already contains a SCIF [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] that we’ll need for cyber operations. It just needs some renovations and to get re-certified as a SCIF.”

The initial funding is good news for Colorado Springs, the mayor says, and it shows continued support at the state capital for the cybersecurity center and its operations in the Springs.

“The governor’s been very supportive,” he said. “And Sen. [Kent] Lambert brought the appropriations forward. We’re very hopeful that it will remain in the bill and we’ll continue to move forward.”

Moving forward also includes hiring a full-time CEO for the cybersecurity center. A national search is underway, the mayor said. The CEO’s salary will come from private donations from the city’s business community — and those efforts are also ongoing.

Nonprofit status

In order to raise money for the endeavor, the state set up a nonprofit and Suthers recently became chairman of the board of directors.

“The governor was the chairman, but had to step down,” Suthers explained. “He’ll be signing the appropriations bill for the renovations. So I became chairman of the board. Pam Shockley-Zalabak is the treasurer and Erik Mitisek of Colorado Technical Association is the secretary.”

Mitisek is leaving CTA to take a position at Denver University.

The group has a couple of members, including Nancy Phillips, CEO of Viawest in Denver and Kyle Hybl, a trustee for the University of Colorado system. Other board members will be named in the future, Suthers said.

“This is going to be a national organization, with national reach,” he said. “So we’re looking for representation on the board from across the country. We’ll also create a trustee board with some prominent people.”

Three missions

The group will also have three advisory boards to reflect its missions — workforce education, research and development and an institute to teach elected officials about the importance of cybersecurity.

“So many elected officials need to know more about cybersecurity,” Suthers said. “And in some cases, they don’t even know the questions to ask. We’re hoping the Cyber Institute will bring in elected officials from around the country. We’re hoping the National Association of Governors will be the first to come and learn from the institute. It’ll be a very intensive program over a couple of days that will really give them a look at what cybersecurty is all about.”

UCCS will play a large role in the workforce development piece of the NCIC, he said.

“We have the fifth largest cybersecurity workforce in the nation,” he said. “So we have a good start. UCCS will be a huge asset to us. They are NSA [National Security Agency]-certified for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. They’re leading a coalition of eight colleges and universities to really create the cybersecurity workforce that industry needs.”

Website

Another development for the NCIC: There’s a website that is recruiting for the CEO and detailing the center’s missions and goals The new site is at ncic.strikingly.com/.

For Suthers, it all shows that there is considerable momentum behind the cybersecurity center.

“We’re moving forward quickly,” he said. “Our goal is to have the CEO hired in 60 days.”