In His Own Words: Governor McAuliffe on NGA Chairmanship and Growing a Cyber Economy

I was honored this week to be named chair of the National Governors Association along, and I am pleased to be serving with Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, who was named vice chair. I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate my wife Dorothy, who has been named Chair of the NGA Spouses’ Leadership Committee. We are committed to enhancing the role and influence of governors and states through our work with NGA.

One of the ways I plan to do that is by making cybersecurity a priority during my chairmanship through an initiative called Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge. In addition to providing states the resources they need to meet this threat, my initiative will build on the strong work of the NGA Resource Center for State Cybersecurity, an effort I’ve co-chaired along with my colleague, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, since 2015. I know firsthand that to confront the ever-growing and sophisticated challenge of cyber-attacks, government leaders must take a comprehensive approach to identify and implement solutions.

Financially, cyber theft of intellectual property and trade secrets alone cost the U.S. economy $300 billion annually. That is why one of my very first executive orders as governor created the Virginia Cyber Security Commission. Since establishing the commission, Virginia became the first state to adopt the National Institute for Standards and Technology Cyber Framework. We adopted an Advanced Credit Card Standard for security and increased the number of Centers of Academic Excellence at Virginia’s community colleges and universities. Through legislation, we designed protections for digital identities, established accountability and authority for cybersecurity in agencies, developed enhanced cybersecurity policies and standards, and improved Virginia’s ability to prosecute cyber-crime.

I’m incredibly proud of the introduction of several cyber initiatives in the 2017–18 budget, including a Scholarship for Service Program, an expanded Veterans Pathway Program in Cybersecurity, a Virginia Cyber Range to train cybersecurity professionals, and improvements to our Virginia State Police cyber capabilities.

Our aggressive approach to grow our cyber sector is a central part of our work to build a new Virginia economy that is diverse and capable of withstanding the uncertainty of sequestration and federal budget fluctuations. We already have a strong base, and we’re positioning Virginia as an international leader in cyber. We are currently home to 650 cybersecurity companies, the most of any state east of the Rockies and an increase from 450 cyber companies in 2011. 
More than 67,850 people work in the cyber sector in Virginia, and that number is expected to grow by 25 percent through 2022, faster than the anticipated national rate of 17 percent growth.

We’re seeing great success in our Commonwealth, and there is more to come. The aim of my cybersecurity initiative is to replicate the work we have done in Virginia, helping other states to protect their assets and citizens from cyber threats. We will focus on how cybersecurity affects all sectors of state government, including health care, education, workforce and economic development, critical infrastructure, and public safety.

Our ability to confront these threats is hindered by a failure to invest in our education systems and workforce in order to grow, train and retrain the best cybersecurity personnel. And we are missing out on economic growth due to our inability to meet the cybersecurity demand in the private sector. Investing in cybersecurity means investing in the future by creating new educational and employment opportunities.

By growing the cybersecurity workforce, we not only ensure that our state agencies have access to qualified computer security professionals, we also make our states more attractive homes for 21st century companies.