The National Cybersecurity Center didn't have to go far to find its first CEO. The center's board selected Ed Rios, vice chairman of its Cyber Institute and a Colorado Springs-based cybersecurity consultant, to head the center as of Saturday.
Board members unanimously selected Rios from 13 applicants, including two other finalists who were interviewed by the board, said Ed Anderson, the center's interim executive director. Chicago-based executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. helped board members through the 3-month search process.
Rios is founder, CEO and president of CyberSpace Operations Consulting Inc., 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.
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.
"This center has immense potential to become a national thought-leader and economic driver for Colorado Springs, the state of Colorado, and across the country," Rios said. "It's a privilege to continue the great work started by Ed Anderson and the board and I am ready to get to work to bring the NCC to its full potential."
Rios replaces Anderson, a retired Army lieutenant general who began as interim executive director on April 1. Anderson will remain as a volunteer consultant to the center and return to his role as executive director of strategic, military, science and security initiatives for University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak. He said he has been asked by Shockley-Zalabak to start a new Cyber Co-Laboratory at UCCS to place a new emphasis on the cyber sector by restructuring several existing programs.
"This moves the NCC to a new chapter. Ed has good plans and ideas and will do great things for both Colorado and the nation," Anderson said. "He brings years of cyber expertise and the start-up experience needed to establish the NCC as a national leader."
Mayor John Suthers, who is vice chairman of the center's board, said Rios "has been a leader in the Colorado Springs community for years, and I know he will take the NCC to the next level and continue to develop our city's reputation as a national leader in cybersecurity."
Rios has played a major role in organizing a three-day National Cybersecurity Institute the center will host Nov. 13-15 at The Broadmoor hotel for guests that include governors and attorneys general of all 50 states plus an undisclosed number of mayors and county commissioners. The event will bring real-time information on cyber trends, security, best practices and education resources to help protect government computer systems networks and critical public assets.
The center is "truly a start-up" and will begin operations Nov. 1 with all three of its elements, Rios said. Staffing could reach 25 people when the center is fully operating, but will depend on financial support, he said. Much of the center's initial operations will be provided by volunteers until it begins generating revenue from training events and subscriptions to services, he said.
The center's three primary elements include:
- The Rapid Response Center, which will help small- to mid-sized businesses, nonprofits and government agencies recover from cyberattacks, will include an Information Sharing and Analysis Organization and negotiating with the National Cyber Exchange, formerly called the Western Cyber Exchange, to provide those services to the NCC, he said.
- The Cyber Research, Education and Training Center that will conduct research on cybersecurity threats and develop a cybersecurity workforce through education programs at UCCS and other schools across the state and nation.
- The Cyber Institute, which will host the mid-November event and continue to share latest cyber trends, security, best practices and education resources with national, state and local public officials. The institute held a briefing Friday for about 25 insurance agents and brokers on cyber threats, the NCC and cybersecurity facilities and organizations along the Front Range.
Anderson said UCCS has selected Kansas City, Mo.-based JE Dunn Construction Group Inc. as general contractor to renovate a former TRW manufacturing plant it owns at 3650 N. Nevada Ave. to become the center's permanent home next summer. The center is operating from temporary offices near UCCS.
The board's Nomination and Governance Committee, now headed by Anderson, has recommended three people to be added to the board, he said. Rios will take over as chairman of the committee when he becomes CEO. The center's board will interview the three board candidates Nov. 13 before the National Cybersecurity Institute event, Anderson said.
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