NSA director makes recruiting pitch, seeks diverse workforce

U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command
U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command

Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, made a recruiting pitch to his audience Thursday at Columbus State University.

“If you’re interested in the opportunity to make a difference in defending your nation, if you’re interested in the opportunity to work with a bunch of motivated men and women, fellow workers at the National Security Agency and at Cyber Command,” he said, “then we’ve got some work for you.”

Rogers also is scheduled to speak Friday in Auburn, starting at 4 p.m. EDT, in The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center auditorium. The presentation from Rogers, a 1981 Auburn graduate, is free and open to the public.

Thirty-five years ago as a business major, Rogers figured he was going to end up negotiating labor contracts. “I had no clue that the journey was going to take me where I wound up,” he said.

But working in cybersecurity doesn’t require a computer science degree, he insisted. In fact, Rogers seeks a workforce diverse in background and training.

“We need, as a nation, men and women who are going to roll up their sleeves and address something as complicated as cybersecurity,” he said, “because, let me tell you, it’s not an easy challenge.”

Whether the cybersecurity issue is public or private, domestic or foreign, Rogers said, “it is a scenario that, quite frankly, gets tougher and tougher every day.”

Hackers are getting better, and most computer networks weren’t envisioned to defend such attacks, Rogers said, “but that’s the world we find ourselves in.” Most computer networks were designed to be cheap and efficient, while defensibility, redundancy and resiliency weren’t considered essential, he said.

Rogers, however, said he is optimistic about the ability of the U.S. to meet this challenge.

“When I look around the nation and I see what young men and women like yourselves are capable of doing, I am confident about our future,” he told the CSU students, “even as I acknowledge we’ve got a long way to get there.”

The U.S. Cyber Command has three primary missions, Rogers said:

▪  Defend computer networks, platforms and data for the Department of Defense.

▪  Defend critical infrastructure, such as power, aviation and finance, including 16 segments of the private sector considered integral to the nation’s security.

▪  Generate offensive cyber capability for the Department of Defense.

The National Security Agency has two primary missions, Rogers said:

▪  Collect information to conduct foreign intelligence missions. “We don’t do domestic collection,” he said. “That’s illegal for us. The FBI works that issue.”

▪  Develop cryptographic standards for all government and military classified systems to provide information assurance and computer network defense.

Increasingly, he said, NSA also works on private sector issues, such as responding to the 2014 North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures.

“I never thought this would happen,” Rogers said of NSA’s involvement with a motion picture company. Sony, however, “reached out to the federal government for assistance,” and NSA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security shared their expertise, he said. They identified how North Korea penetrated Sony’s computer networks, how to drive out the North Koreans and how to ensure the breach doesn’t happen again, he said.

Rogers’ visit to CSU is part of the Turner College Executive Speaker Series. The next speakers in the series are scheduled to be Scott Voynich, managing partner of certified public accounting firm Robinson, Grimes & Company, on Oct. 27, and Julia Davis, chief information officer of supplemental insurer Aflac, on Nov. 15. Both presentations are set for 11 a.m. to noon in CSU’S Center for Commerce and Technology second-floor auditorium.