Landrieu seeks 'cyber footprint' for Louisiana

Locating the nation's cybersecurity hub in the land of jambalaya and jazz could be a good step, some experts say.

Mary Landrieu

Sen. Mary Landrieu argues that the nationl's cybersecurity capabilities would be well-placed in her home state.

Sen. Mary Landrieu wants the federal government to build out its cybersecurity capabilities in her home state, far away from the federal contracting hub inside the Beltway. The Louisiana Democrat – who is up for re-election in 2014 – has parochial reasons for making such a pitch. But some experts agree with her.

"It's definitely a good idea to look at dispersed cybersecurity workforce and regional cyber education programs," said Jason Healey, Director of the Atlantic Council's Cyber Statecraft Initiative. "It's been too bad that so much of the money has been concentrated in D.C., and especially concentrated in defense-related jobs. It's really sucked a lot of the talent away from other parts of the United States where it's needed."

Landrieu's office didn't respond to requests for comment from FCW, but her slot as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee puts her in a position to push for legislation that includes incentives to develop cybersecurity talent nationwide, and put it to work protecting federal networks and other sensitive installations.

"Those jobs can't all be based inside Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va.," she said in comments to the Daily Advertiser in Lafayette. "Some of those jobs need to be located outside the blast zone. With its technological expertise and the university here, Acadiana can help safeguard the cyber frontier."

The move to decentralize cybersecurity is a key component of cyber legislation that passed the House of Representatives without dissent earlier this year. The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013 would establish a partnership among the federal government, private industry, and academia to fund research into cybersecurity and training of a cadre of professionals. The workforce and training aspects of this bill are reflected in a draft of cybersecurity legislation put out in July by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, and John Thune (R-S.D), the panel's ranking member.

Federal agencies have taken a regional approach to cybersecurity training. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security run the National Centers of Academic Excellence, with two-year information assurance programs at colleges and universities nationwide. These are geared to building capacity in the cybersecurity workforce, not necessarily defending federal networks.

This approach, Healey said, addresses an important need. "There's a good reason to get more cybersecurity people out there, and have them as part of a regular workforce," Healey said. "We need this for the target down the street."

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