By Vinnie Persichetti
Director, cybersecurity programs
Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC
When it comes to cybersecurity threats, gone are the days of black-hooded hackers and nefarious types hunkered down in basements. Today’s cybercrime masterminds are savvy and well-armed to cost businesses, governments, and just about any organization trillions of dollars in collective damages.
Now, a recently completed study reveals Colorado Springs’ cybersecurity ecosystem is strategically positioned to proactively tackle global cybersecurity risks, threats, and opportunities, and capitalize on a growing cyber commercial market.
The Pikes Peak Regional Cybersecurity Plan is the culmination of nine months of work led by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and funded through a Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment grant awarded to the plan’s partner, Pikes Peak Community College. Our region was a natural fit for the OEA grant, which is focused on diversifying cyber industries in defense communities.
The goal? Align local cyber resources and initiatives for economic investment and workforce growth.
To truly dig in, we collaborated with local cyber industry leaders representing business, defense, education, workforce, and government. Simon Everett, a research and design contractor who has completed similar work in other states, came along side us. Among the work was a military separation skills inventory, which offered an analysis of skills and certifications of transitioning servicemembers. Additionally, we explored in depth our existing cybersecurity sector, as well as those in benchmark cities such as New York City; San Antonio, Tex.; Huntsville, Ala.; Austin, Tex.; Augusta, Ga.; and Tel Aviv, Israel.
What we found confirmed what we’ve known for some time – Colorado Springs, already a diverse hub for IT companies, higher education, and national defense, is in a unique position to create a thriving environment for the cybersecurity industry.
Decrypting the study
With the study behind us, it’s time to begin next steps. An application to the OEA for phase two is being developed for submission and we expect to hear the outcome this fall. These dollars would allow for implementation of plan recommendations. Among them:
- Stimulate economic growth by increasing pure-play cyber companies’ local presence, assisting existing defense companies in diversification, and establishing specialized deal-closing funds and incentives.
- Build a cyber-ready workforce by using existing resources to create a cyber institute, training programs, boot camps, summer camps, and apprenticeships for K-12, college students and grads, and transitioning servicemembers.
- Develop defense-related initiatives, including a clearance-in-waiting program that addresses our national security clearance investigation backlog.
- Create a cyber-aware community by helping businesses and residents prepare to manage and respond to cyber risks.
Blueprints in hand, we’re ready to continue our partnerships to lift and grow our cybersecurity ecosystem. Keep track of our progress and learn more about our cyber environment at our new website – coloradospringscybersecurity.com.
Vinnie Persichetti (Chief Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, Retired) served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force. Persichetti was assigned to various units across Peterson Air Force Base until his retirement in 2017. Prior to his final assignment, he was the 21st Communications Squadron Superintendent, charged with advising the commander on all aspects of personnel and mission execution across the spectrum of communications and cyber support.