Senior Leaders Assemble to Support and Celebrate America’s Cyber Warriors

By Christine B. Piry, Events Director, MCPA

February 3, 2020

This past December, the Military Cyber Professionals Association (MCPA) held its 2019 Board of Advisors Dinner Meeting. This 3rd annual gathering of senior leaders and practitioners from across the broader military cyber community served as a testament to the enduring commitment by so many Americans to the MCPA mission, vision, and values.

Image: Lindsey Schulenburg, Institute of World Politics

This impressive group included MCPA advisors like Major General (Retired) Joe Brendler (former Chief of Staff of US Cyber Command, Diane Janosek, Esq. (Commandant of the National Security Agency (NSA) National Cryptologic School), Master Gunnery Sergeant Scott Stalker (Senior Enlisted Leader (SEL) of US Cyber Command and NSA), John Felker (Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), Rear Admiral (Retired) Paul Becker (former Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Dr. Brad Sims (President of Capitol Technology University), Arnold Abraham, Esq (former Associate Director of Intelligence at US Cyber Command), and Paul de Souza (President and Founder of the Cyber Security Forum Initiative (CSFI)).

MCPA leadership, staff, and top volunteers included Amanda Mason and Chris Cleary (Directors), Esteban Jimenez and Dr. Joseph Schafer (Leadership from the Fort Meade and National Capital Region (NCR) Chapters), Brad Rhodes and Christine Piry (Co-leads for the MCPA national convention, HammerCon), Tim McLain (Sponsor Relations), James Loving (Editor in Chief of MCPA’s magazine, CYBER), and Joe Billingsley (MCPA Founder).

Lewis, Mason, and Janosek

Special guests included Dr. Cassandra Lewis (Acting Chancellor of the National Defense University (NDU) College of Information and Cyberspace (CIC), Christine de Souza (CSFI Director), and Rear Admiral John Mauger (J7 of US Cyber Command). Dean Lane (Institute of World Politics (IWP) Senior Vice President for Cyber Intelligence) and Dr. John Lenczowski (President of IWP) were seated at the head of the table as the generous hosts.

The historical Marlatt Mansion served as both a beautiful and a meaningful venue for the evening since it has been the site of another series of important cyber-focused gatherings, Cyber Embassy Night, which has been actively supported by the MCPA. After initial introductions led by Mason, the MCPA founder provided a presentation on the past, present, and future of MCPA, which began with a hearty recognition of the meaningful partnership with IWP. Billingsley’s presentation highlighted the wide breadth of MCPA activities, the contributions of many volunteers, and the real-world impact of the MCPA. Some particularly noteworthy accomplishments included the membership now being in the thousands and the popularity of the MCPA’s journal (Military Cyber Affairs).

Slide from the MCPA update presentation

The presentation culminated with a discussion on our first national convention, HammerCon, scheduled for Tuesday 23 June 2020 in Laurel, Maryland. With its name inspired by our Order of Thor medal, this is certain to be the most memorable and talked about event exclusively for America’s military cyber professionals. HammerCon will bring together our community with three tracks. The main track is known as CORE (for Cyber Operations Readiness & Experiences), the scholarly research track will feature proceedings publishing and is known as NERD (or New Emerging Research & Development), and a track focusing on private sector solutions is called GIT (or Growing Innovations in Tech). There will also be an exciting new capture the flag (CTF) competition!

Each of these tracks and the CTF are designed to present unique insights and ideas to inspire both the newest and most experienced members of the community. Ultimately, that will result in a stronger and more effective Cyber Mission Force. With no cost to attend for MCPA members (and MCPA membership being free for government employees and veterans), this event will offer a fun, focused, and cost-effective alternative to other educational opportunities that are further away from Fort Meade.

After the presentation, Mason lead the group through an engaging and collaborative discussion about a wide range of topics at the intersection of cyberspace and national security. These topics included the current threat landscape, the roles of different organizations, and the importance of education. The threat landscape discussion included the role of foreign money being used to influence various American organizations, including prominent think tanks. Given the very joint atmosphere in the room (with Soldiers, Sairlors, Airmen, Marines, Coasties, Guardsmen, Veterans, and others) and personnel working in and with various parts of the public and private sector, connecting dots to create opportunities and solutions was an ongoing theme of the evening. The focus on the long-term investment of education was also no surprise given the healthy presence of academic leaders (which Billingsley identified as a result of the MCPA being founded in an operationally-grounded academic environment at the Naval Postgraduate School).

Stalker and Billingsley

After having represented the MCPA at a number of events and telling others about our impressive advisory board, this was the first time I actually had the opportunity to meet many of them. The evening was very meaningful to me and I gained insights and connections I would never make anywhere else. I observed my fellow MCPA teammates, particularly those serving in our nation’s armed forces, connecting with new mentors and those that can help their professional efforts in very real ways. While I may be biased as the MCPA Director of Events, I have seen the value of MCPA gatherings like this for both senior and junior personnel, and I am thankful they exist. I look forward to seeing you at one on our upcoming events soon!

About the Author

Christine Piry (@p1nkflam1ngo) is the MCPA Director of Events and Co-Lead for HammerCon. She has extensive experience in the nonprofit and technology sectors. Christine has organized events large and small, both domestically and internationally, including serving as the lead for the DEFCON Arcade Party.