Washington DC - English

Digital Armament

By Wolf-Christian Weimer17.11.2015Global Policy

President Barack Obama is well known to be a frequent user of modern technology. No wonder some newspapers gave him the title “Social Media President.” Obama’s Twitter account is the third most followed in the world. Only Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have more followers. Every 33rd person that is active on Facebook likes the 44th president of the United States.



Besides the shiny world of social media, hard information technology work has been part of the U.S. governments for decades, but critics believe that the way the government deals with cyber issues is outdated or doesn’t even exist appropriately. Recently, the White House published the long-awaited Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP), which aims to strengthen and protect the federal networks and systems. In the official White House memorandum, CSIP also makes clear that cybersecurity should be “a top priority” and is one of the “most important challenges we face as a Nation.”

The use of cyber definitely also became a significant military tool. After the bloody attacks in Paris, which French President Francois Hollande and others described as an “act of war”, the hacker group Anonymous declared war on the Islamic State. It’s a cyber war, of course. In the French video message they said: “Expect massive cyberattacks. War is declared. Get prepared.”
According to a recent Foreign Policy report, the hackers already had hacked, unmasked, and reported thousands of Twitter accounts and websites related to IS propaganda.

Recruitment Wave in Washington

But military superpowers as the United States don’t want to leave all cyber war activities in the hands of unknown “hacktivists”. Instead, the White House is constantly recruiting well-educated hackers from across the country. The current terrorist threats make hiring security experts more important than ever before. The demand for digital intelligence has significantly increased. Other government agencies in and around Washington, D.C. are following the White House’s recruitment lead.

In a new and remarkable trend, even very well-paid cyber experts have left their corporate careers behind to serve the country. Udi Manber is a perfect example. He already worked for the world’s most important tech firms like Yahoo (chief scientist in 1998), Amazon (vice president in 2002), Google (vice presidents of engineering in 2006), and YouTube (vice president of engineering in 2014). But now he seeks a new challenge and joined the National Institute of Health in early 2015. He explains his motivations to join a federal agency by saying: “I hope to help.” Many people seem to be following Manber’s simple principle, such as the people at 18F.

The federal government’s digital consultancy, 18F, is a crew of engineers, coders, developers, and designers that have answered Obama’s call, leaving startups and highly ranked technology companies across the country for new posts in Washington. 18F started its work a little over a year ago. Now, more than 100 people work for the agency, and the community of tech workers is rapidly growing.

The interconnectivity of the army and the digital world also becomes visible by visiting the successful startup incubator “1776”:www.1776.vc in Washington, D.C. At its core, 1776 is a global incubator and seed fund that helps promising startups to succeed. The incubator aims to increase the number of cyber startups in the near future. By now, already interesting firms work in the 1776 offices. One startup member, Military Job Networks, brings veterans and local businesses together, and in terms of cybersecurity, the Crystal City-based startup GroupSense benefits from having an office space so close to the federal policy-makers and regulators. A third example is Military Mobile, a project that wants to digitalize the military’s bureaucracy and lift it into the 21st century.

Earlier this year, an immense data theft shocked the Obama administration. Hackers had stolen information such as security numbers and fingerprints of 21.5 million people. As a result not just the affected Office of Personnel Management, but also all governmental agencies should take cybersecurity seriously.

New Cyber Regulation

As a result of the increased government attention to and spending cybersecurity measures, more startups are settling in Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital now attracts more young cyber companies than ever before as the proximity to political power distinguishes D.C. from Silicon Valley. Forbes ranked Washington, D.C. the “No. 1 New Tech Hot Spot in America”. Today, far more than 1,000 tech startups gather in the nation’s capital. The venture capital invested in DC’s startups topped $48 billion last year. This 61 percent increase compared to the prior year is one of the highest ever seen in Washington, D.C.

For non-U.S. students at either location or any other startup and tech spot across the country, good news comes from the Department of Homeland Security. It is rushing to finalize and implement a new program proposal for technology and science students by Feb. 13, 2016. The proposal renewal would include an extension from 29 months to 36 months total after graduation for non-U.S. students with science or tech degrees from universities across the country to stay longer in the U.S., thereby keeping qualified young workers in the country.

200,000 Open Cyber Position

According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cybersecurity sector has more than 200,000 jobs open. Clearly, the demand for qualified tech workers is incredibly high. The Department of Homeland Security’s upcoming program renewal would certainly help the right college graduates fill the right cyber positions. Similarly, the military plays a role in recruiting IT talent for Washington, D.C.’s cyber jobs.

Cybersecurity is one of the most serious threats nowadays and is, therefore, a good opportunity for coders, hackers, and techies to fill distinguished government jobs. Clearly, cybersecurity is a growing future market as evidenced in D.C., where higher government spending goes hand in hand with an increasing number of entrepreneurial opportunities. What we witness here, is a digital armament.



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