National Cyber Director unveils new approach at Cyber War College Conference

  • Published
  • By Joe Billingsley
  • College of Information and Cyberspace

After almost two years of operating within the COVID-19 environment, Dr. Cassandra C. Lewis knew it was time that her organization’s annual flagship conference needed to be focused on the enduring impacts of the pandemic.  

“For many of us, stateside, it appears that the worst of the lockdowns are behind us. However, for much of the rest of the world, which we are a very active participant in, the pandemic is still very much on the forefront of their minds” said Lewis after a recent trip abroad to gather with international alumni of the National Defense University.    

Lewis leads the University’s College of Information and Cyberspace, as its newest Chancellor as of Dec. 17, after having served as Interim Chancellor for about two years. The College is commonly referred to as “The Cyber War College”, alongside its sister senior service colleges that award Joint Professional Military Education, or JPME, Phase II credit to selected US military officers. 

This was the second year in a row that the annual conference has been offered exclusively online due to COVID-19 related concerns. The pandemic-fueled pivot to remote work, and adoption of enabling technologies like Microsoft Teams, was one of the points made by Dr. Kelly Fletcher at Cyber Beacon 2021.  

Fletcher, who is performing the duties of the DOD Chief Information Officer served as the morning keynote of Cyber Beacon 2021, alongside moderator Harry Wingo. Wingo is a member of the CIC faculty and lead for the CIO Leadership Development Program (LDP) at CIC, a prestigious, intensive, and in-residence 15-week graduate program offered by CIC. 

“While the in-person experience is invaluable and irreplaceable, hosting the conference virtually has its benefits,” said Joe Billingsley, the event’s main organizer.  

He continued, “We are able to save American taxpayer dollars due to no travel and lodging expenses for government officials, and tap into globally distributed speakers and attendees. One of the best examples of this was Jeff Moss, founder of the Blackhat and DEF CON hacker conferences, presenting from Singapore last year.” 

Alongside its full-time JPME program on its Fort McNair campus in the nation’s capital, CIC also offers graduate certificates and a master’s degree for remote and part-time students. These regionally-accredited graduate programs are tuition-free for eligible DOD personnel. 

A representative from the part-time student body, Kellie Bohnsack of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was selected to provide an introduction for the afternoon keynote of Cyber Beacon 2021. “Highlighting our remote student population is very important to me,” Lewis said. 

Bohnsach introduced Chris Inglis, the first National Cyber Director, which is a brand-new role in the White House. Although new in this role, this is not the first time he has participated in CIC-hosted events.  

Most recently, last year, Inglis represented the United States Cyberspace Solarium Commission in a workforce-focused event in conjunction with the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.  

Talking of the office he now leads, Inglis stated in his Cyber Beacon remarks that “The money came into being, such that we could then resource the office, about three weeks ago. So, to say it’s new and nascent is perhaps an understatement.”  

Inglis used the Cyber Beacon forum to explain what this office will do. He said it plans to “bring coherence, connectivity, [and] leverage for all the parts that are already in this space, such that we propose, if you’re a transgressor in this space, you’ve got to beat all of us to beat one of us.”  

He goes on, “That’s a new proposition that’s a fundamental transformation of the way we’ve been proceeding in this space for a very long period of time.” He calls out this approach again in his remarks, “You need to beat all of us to beat one of us”, which some observers have already identified as the unveiling of a new doctrine. 

More about the new role, office, and rationale can be found in a recently published document called “A Strategic Intent Statement for the Office of the National Cyber Director” and viewed here

In addition to the keynote speakers, Fletcher and Inglis, Cyber Beacon 2021 included two panels focused on the cyberspace domain and information environment, respectively. Recordings of talks at Cyber Beacon and other events can be seen on the CIC YouTube channel here