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National Cybersecurity Center CEO resigns, replaced by ex-CEO of Cherwell Software

August 29, 2017 Updated: August 30, 2017 at 7:23 am
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Ed Rios resigned Tuesday as CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Ed Rios resigned suddenly Tuesday as CEO of the National Cybersecurity Center less than two months before the center is to move from temporary offices to a newly renovated former manufacturing plant - a facility that will only be half-finished because it lacks funding for completion.

Rios said in a news release he resigned "to devote more time to his business interests." He will be replaced on an interim basis by Vance Brown, who stepped down a year ago as CEO of Cherwell Software LLC, a Colorado Springs-based company that makes software to keep computers, networks and other information technology equipment running properly.

Rios, who took the job in October, will remain as a member of Colorado Springs center's board of directors. He was previously founder, CEO and president of CyberSpace Operations Consulting, a 9-year-old company that specializes in moving new technical innovations into national security operations for cyber, intelligence and space programs in government and the private sector through 20 consultants, including 17 retired generals.

The company's clients include many of the nation's largest defense contractors as well as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (Space-X) and several satellite contractors.

Ed Anderson, a center board member who was interim CEO before Rios was hired and has returned to the center on an interim basis for management support, said the center needs to launch "a major effort in terms of fundraising. We need to (raise money) to build out the Cyber Research, Education and Training Center."

While the NCC plans to move its offices in mid-October into a former TRW manufacturing plant the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs owns at 3650 N. Nevada Ave., where $8 million in state-funded renovations are nearing completion, the center has no money to build out space for the research, education and training operation, he said. NCC officials are nearing agreement with a large cybersecurity company, which he declined to identify, that would provide some funding and a "strategic relationship," but the center would still need to raise "several million dollars" more, he said.

Anderson said the center will continue its scheduled programs, including a first responder cyber exercise scheduled Thursday in Englewood, a cybersecurity oversight training workshop for company and nonprofit executives and board members scheduled Oct. 17 in Denver and the Governor's Cyber Symposium at The Broadmoor hotel on Nov. 1-3. The center's Rapid Response unit, operated by the Colorado Springs-based National Cyber Exchange, also continues to operate without interruption, said Jeff Beauprez, a senior fellow with the exchange.

Board members haven't discussed launching a search for a new CEO, Anderson said, but added that "we would like to think that Vance staying could be an option."

Rios said he had finished several major projects in getting the center launched and now "is the perfect transition window for me to move to the private sector." He plans to return to CyberSpace Operations Consulting and is considering joining a startup company he declined to identify.

"The initial phase has been accomplished and it is now time to move into the routine and growth process," Rios said. "It is a good time to do this both for the NCC and my company."

A retired Air Force colonel, Rios spent 26 years in special technical, space and intelligence operations, special mission sea duty and flight operations with three deployments. Rios received a master's degree in business administration, completed graduate work at Harvard and Washington universities and had a fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Ed Rios' knowledge of cybersecurity, government and entrepreneurship made him uniquely qualified to lead NCC through its nascent phase," Bob Hurst, chairman of the center's board and former vice chairman of financial giant Goldman Sachs, said Tuesday in a news release. "The NCC Board is grateful for Ed's leadership."

Brown remains as Cherwell's executive chairman and recently started a business accelerator specializing in cybersecurity called Exponential Impact that is cosponsoring the Cyber Symposium with the cybersecurity center.

"NCC is fortunate to have someone of Vance's character and caliber assisting with this transition. We are grateful to Ed Rios for his leadership and appreciative of Vance Brown's willingness to accept this important baton from Mr. Rios," Hurst said in the release.

Rios' departure comes less than two weeks before Mary Graft arrives to become the center's director of cyber training and education development. She previously spent a year as a fellow at Colorado Succeeds, a Denver-based nonprofit group of business executives that push for improved schools. She received a doctoral degree in education focusing on workforce development and training in May from University of Denver.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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