Freshman Congressman Will Hurd wants San Antonio to become Cybersecurity City USA, a natural progression for a city long known as Military City USA. The city now hosts the Air Force Cyber Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, home to the 24th Air Force , 25th Air Force, and the 960th Cyberspace Operations Group. San Antonio also is home to a growing National Security Agency facility in northwest San Antonio, the largest such enterprise outside NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. (see link at end of story for current job openings).
Hurd is coming home this week to talk about what it will take to achieve that goal. He is the keynote speaker at a SouthSA Chamber “State of the District” luncheon at Sunset Station Depot, Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Click here for ticket information.
Normally, a freshmen Congressman would not have much of a role to play in the realms of national security, intelligence, or cybersecurity, but Hurd’s background in computer science, cybersecurity and his years of service at the Central Intelligence Agency mean he is not exactly a newcomer to Washington D.C., where top security clearances equal information and access.
His hard-fought election victory last November over Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego in the sprawling Texas Congressional District 23, which is predominantly Hispanic, also caught the attention of the Republican majority leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hurd is the first African-American Republican from Texas to be elected to Congress since Reconstruction. He’s been given key committee assignments that play to his skills and experience and will help him make the kind of impact as a freshman legislator he will need to make in order to defend his seat the next go-around when Democrats mount a major campaign to retake the district.
Hurd was given a seat on the Homeland Security Committee and assigned to a subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, and given an even more influential position as chairman of a House subcommittee on information technology.
“I’ve already learned a great deal in the six weeks I’ve been here, and I see opportunities out there for San Antonio and I will be talking about those,” Hurd said in an interview Monday. “But everyone needs to be working together in San Antonio. We need to have clear goals and we need to be aligned. Part of it is better coordination among the schools and universities in San Antonio that all have relevant programs: UTSA, A&M-SA, and the Alamo Colleges.”
Hurd said he also plans on working with city leaders to promote San Antonio’s cybersecurity profile in ways that lead to new economic development opportunities, marketing assets that only San Antonio among the major cities in Texas can offer.
“I don’t see why the NSA wouldn’t be talking about its presence in San Antonio, the impact they are having on the community, and the good work they are doing with San Antonio schools,” Hurd said. “Their presence is no secret, there or outside Washington. Anyone who has driven out Highway 295 to Fort Meade knows the NSA is there.”
Hurd sees one immediate opportunity where San Antonio can compete for an expanded military mission.
“The Air Force is creating 39 cyberprotection teams, and eight of those will go with Air National Guard units, and four of those eight have already been selected,” Hurd said. “There are a final four slots and San Antonio absolutely should be one of those places. We already have an International Air National Guard facility at Lackland. The international guard has a unit called the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, they’re incident responders, so one of these cyberprotection teams would be a perfect complement.”
Does the city have a realistic chance at winning an expanded cybersecurity mission?
“I just found out about it, but the decision will be made pretty soon,” Hurd said, sounding optimistic. “I have existing relationships in the Pentagon. There are people I can call, and I’ve found people are responding to us. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it is to be the chairman of the subcommittee, and that is definitely helping open doors for the city. And it helps that I can talk shop. I know what I am talking about. I understand the programs.”
Hurd’s Wednesday talk will reach beyond cybersecurity and the pursuit of the Air Force reserve unit.
“I’m going to talk about the subcommittee and our goals for the next year, and four specific areas we will look at: cybersecurity and information sharing; privacy; IT procurement; and emerging technologies,” Hurd said. “The federal government spends $80 billion a year on IT procurement, and 80% of the $80 billion is spent on supporting legacy systems you and I wouldn’t even use. There are federal agencies where people still work on old CRTs with glowing green screens. Emerging technologies is also amazing. 3D printing it’s awesome, until someone prints a gun, or prints something that has serious patent issues.”
Hurd also said there are issues where technology is running well ahead of regulation, and that needs to be changed.
“Everybody is wearing Fitbit, but you can’t put a heart rate monitor on them because the FDA says that makes it a medical device,” he said.
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*Featured/top image: Congressman Will Hurd speaks with a member of the U.S. Military. Courtesy photo.