Locals talk effort to turn Bossier and Shreveport into a tech haven at NGA cybersecurity summit

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Pictured left to right: Dr. Rick Bateman, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College; Rick Gallot, president of Grambling State University; Dr. Les Guice, president of Louisiana Tech University; Yogesh Khanna, Chief Technology Officer for General Dynamics Information Technology; Ralph Russo, Director of Information Technology Programs at Tulane University; and Craig Spohn, president of the Cyber Innovation Center at the National Governors Association's 3rd annual cybersecurity summit at the Shreveport Convention Center May 14 and 15. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A conference in Shreveport this week showcased the importance of cybersecurity while highlighting the area’s capabilities in the field.

The National Governors Association held it’s 3rd annual cybersecurity summit at the Shreveport Convention Center May 14 and 15.

Over 200 state officials attended the summit, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Edwards and Hutchinson are co-chairs of the National Governors Association’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is an issue that affects all state governments, so it is critical for leaders to come together to learn about the latest and greatest best practices, current threats and new technologies,” Gov. Edwards said.

Shreveport-Bossier, in connection with Barksdale Air Force Base, is considered Louisiana’s epicenter of cyber security.

“We’ve prioritized cyber security business, education and research in Louisiana. Hosting this event in Shreveport is a chance to highlight on a national stage the work being done right here in our own backyard,” Gov. Edwards said.

Following his opening remarks, Gov. Edwards led a discussion panel that included local cybersecurity industry employers and university/college presidents. 

The panel consisted of Dr. Rick Bateman, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College; Rick Gallot, president of Grambling State University; Dr. Les Guice, president of Louisiana Tech University; Yogesh Khanna, Chief Technology Officer for General Dynamics Information Technology; Ralph Russo, Director of Information Technology Programs at Tulane University; and Craig Spohn, president of the Cyber Innovation Center.

“This part of the state, there is a patriotism and a willingness to serve and there has been some strong partnerships that have resulted along this corridor. The K-12 education space is a primary issue among the national security checklist. We really have to pay attention to at the fact that other nations are closing the technology down,” said Spohn.

Discussion involved what universities are doing to attract women to the cybersecurity industry, debunking myths that students have to be math geniuses to enter the industry, and encouraging diversity within the cybersecurity workforce.

“At BPCC, we have a vision for embedding cybersecurity literacy certifications and cyber intelligence certifications in all of our academic programs, so that when our students graduate they will be more attractive to employers, ” said Dr. Bateman.

Other topics discussed during the two day summit were trends in state cybersecurity strategies, training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, safeguarding the electric grid, and statewide disaster planning.

Dr. Guice said Louisiana Tech is not only focusing on the technical side, but on the social and political, ethical consideration. 

“We’re bringing in different disciplines to the table. Political science, history. And even our college of education is heavily involved in delivering certificated programs that help train teachers to teach cyber in the classrooms,” he explained.

From Grambling’s perspective, Gallot pointed out the university has been in the tech space for a while, having its first class of computer science graduates in 1972. 

“Being able to add the Bachelors Degree in cyber security, it positions us to be able to provide that specific training,” said Gallot. “As much as a diverse workforce is important, a well-trained workforce is even more important. So our commitment has been and always will be to provide that diversity of a well trained workforce.”

The National Governors Association Resource Center for State Cybersecurity provides governors of America’s 55 states and territories with resources, tools and policy guidance to help craft and implement effective state cybersecurity policies and practices. Edwards co-chaired the center beginning in 2018.