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Remarks at signing of Memorandum of Understanding establishing the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST, Gaithersburg, MD
February 21, 2012
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director


Thank you, Gail [Porter].

First of all, let me extend a warm welcome to everybody who has joined us today for this auspicious beginning of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. I'm going to talk in a few minutes about our vision for this center, but first, the gathering in this room is a testament to the fact that this is a partnership—a partnership at all levels between other federal agencies, a partnership with industry, a partnership with the state, and a partnership with our county and local government as well. So, I want to thank all of you for coming here.

In a few moments, you're going to hear from the folks who are joining me today: Senator Barbara Mikulski, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and Executive Isiah Leggett from Montgomery County. I also want to thank those of you who have joined us today: Ann Neuberger, special assistant to the director for the National Security Agency; Leon Rodriguez, who is director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS; Lee Holcomb, who is the vice president of Strategic Initiatives from Lockheed Martin; Patrick O'Shea, VP for Research, University of Maryland, College Park; and Jeff Summers, VP for Research from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We have some here from Morgan State, is that correct? Great. Outstanding. Thank you for joining us. We also have Sidney Katz, the mayor of Gaithersburg, Maryland, and many others that I'm sure I'm neglecting. But this really would not be possible without all of you here.

So cyber security is the topic of the day. As most of you are aware, cyber security is not a new issue for NIST; we've been doing it since before we were NIST. As the National Bureau of Standards over 35 years ago, working with IBM and others, NIST created the first open public standard for high-quality encryption. It was called the data encryption standard, or DES. And that standard helped to spur the use of automated teller machines, ensuring the data could be transmitted securely between machines and banking centers. Today, NIST has a very broad responsibility to support a broad suite of standards required for the federal government with the exception of the classified systems, which are the responsibility of the National Security Agency, and which are used much more broadly than the federal government. They're widely and voluntarily adopted by state and local governments, by industry, and in fact, all around the world. The nation's cyber infrastructure is increasingly entwined with our lives. I don't need to tell you that. It's the way we communicate, it's the way we organize our lives, it's the way we do business, and it's the way we run our organizations. And as key and as powerful an enabler as this technology is, it also comes with a dependency on that technology, and we have become much more sensitive to its weaknesses—to the fact that others with malicious intent seek to undermine this infrastructure and exploit its vulnerabilities; to new modes of crime, terrorism, or other attacks. So addressing this challenge to promote trust in our cyber infrastructure is a big task. In fact, at the federal level government, it's no exaggeration to say it's a whole government issue. The unique role that NIST plays in this broad effort is to be the partner with industry, to work to make sure that the approach we take on cyber security is robust, is informed by the best minds and best ideas, and is effectively deployed into practice. This National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence will be a cornerstone of that effort.

This center will be a place outside the NIST campus where we bring together the very best folks from industry, from our universities, from government, to work on particular focal areas. And the idea is really that we will have a sandbox where we can work together at the same time, rubbing shoulders, working on these new technologies at the same time we're looking at the standards and other deliverables from the government side. This center, this cyber security sandbox and the gathering, is fundamentally enabled by the partnerships. This is a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It will encourage industry and government and academia to work together on shared problems, seek shared solutions, and have those solutions adopted into industry.

For a partnership—for a center based on partnerships—to work effectively, it has to be based on the organizations that support it. We could not ask for stronger partners to help us get the center off the ground than Governor O'Malley, who has made cyber security a focal point for the state; for Lieutenant Governor Brown and Secretary Johansson and his team at the Maryland Business and Economic Development Department; and with County Executive Leggett from Montgomery County and his leadership in supporting this center here in Montgomery County. The state of Maryland and the county will be helping to provide the physical space for this center, and we are grateful to them and to the many others who will be signing this memorandum today to solidify that partnership.

So, we're glad that all of you are here today to help us celebrate this new beginning, and we're looking forward to working with each and every one of you to address these important cyber security challenges.

At this point, I would like to introduce somebody who played an outsized role—in fact I would say the key role—in this center that we're announcing today. And that, of course, is Senator Barbara Mikulski, the senior senator from the state of Maryland. As you all know, Senator Mikulski has worked tirelessly to ensure that cyber security gets the attention it deserves, the funding it needs, and the attention it needs from our federal agencies. She serves as chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science in the United States Senate. She is a vocal and powerful spokesperson for cyber security within the U.S. Congress. She's been a champion of NIST, and more than any other person I can think of, it was her vision of making sure that NIST was a gateway to industry and providing the support for a center like this to cement that role. She's really been its champion from the very beginning, and so in no small measure, this is a celebration of her leadership at the same time. So today, we now have a new $10 million appropriation to kick off the center, and we now have the task before us of rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. I'm delighted that she's here to join us, and I want to thank her very much for her support in making this happen. Senator Mikulski.