Cybersecurity executives collaborate to address evolving cyberthreat landscape

April 26, 2019
National Security Agency Executive Director Harry Coker Jr. and 300 other executives from across the county convened in Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola, Fla. – April 26, 2019 – Tasked with thwarting an evolving cyberthreat landscape but limited by a critical national workforce shortage, National Security Agency Executive Director Harry Coker Jr. and 300 other executives from across the county convened in Pensacola, Florida, in search of answers.

"We absolutely need more cybersecurity professionals that are trained properly and can protect our world,” Coker said. “Nationally, we're experiencing a 12-year high in the cybersecurity expertise gap, and it's not because we're producing fewer cybersecurity professionals. Rather, it's because the requirements for expertise in cybersecurity are growing exponentially.”

Coker delivered the keynote address to academia, business and government executives at the fourth annual Cybersecurity Centers of Academic Excellence Executive Leadership Forum. Lt. Gov. Jeanette M. Nuñez welcomed the executives on behalf of the state of Florida, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem who delivered the plenary address.

The University of West Florida, a nationally-recognized leader in cybersecurity education and training that serves as one of eight Cybersecurity CAE Regional Resource Centers across the nation, partnered with the NSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to host the forum.

“The time for cybersecurity vigilance is now, and UWF is proudly at the forefront,” said UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “United behind a common cause, cybersecurity professionals from around the country gathered along Florida’s Cyber Coast for the CAE Executive Leadership Forum. We will continue our role in leading the future generation of these professionals.”

Forum topics included national challenges in cybersecurity workforce development, state and industry workforce needs, international cybersecurity education initiatives and industry innovations in cybersecurity. The forum hosted distinguished speakers including cybersecurity executives from the Department of Defense, DHS, NATO, IBM, AT&T, Trend Micro, Metova and AppRiver, in addition to academic institutions with nationally-recognized cybersecurity programs.

“The collaboration at the CAE Executive Leadership Forum demonstrates that education, industry and government can effectively collaborate to rapidly and purposefully meet the growing challenges of workforce transformation,” said Jonathan Arneault, who serves as the director of the North America Software-as-a-Service, Center of Excellence and Go-to-Market Transformation for IBM.

The NSA and DHS jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The goal of the program is to reduce vulnerability in national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise. The number of CAE-designated institutions increased to 272 following a designation ceremony at the forum.

“At Homeland Security, I have the purview of what we would consider the national cybersecurity pipeline and Colleges of Academic Excellence sit at the fulcrum of that,” said Bradford Willke, Director (Acting) Stakeholder Engagement Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, DHS. “Academic institutions are entrenched in the communities, so they can be that partner for local businesses and provide durability that’s not going to go away.”

For more information about the CAE Executive Leadership Forum, visit For more information on the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, visit