On July 22, the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies concluded its 2022 cyber policy course, Cybersecurity Policy in the Americas: Challenges for Policy-Strategic Analysis, led by Dr. Boris Saavedra. The course bolsters whole-of-hemisphere cybersecurity efforts by empowering and connecting regional partners who seek to strengthen cybersecurity and guard against threats to democracies. The class included military, public, and private sector professionals representing 11 countries in the Americas.
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Michael T. Plehn, president of National Defense University, welcomed course participants upon their arrival to Washington, D.C., for the resident portion of the course. He shared his insight to the group, saying, “Rapid technology advances and emerging technology are changing not only the way we live but also… requires us to think about cooperation, competition, and conflict in new ways. We must integrate cyber considerations into all aspects of planning and strategy.”
Regional policy priority
In June, regional leaders attended the 9th Summit of the Americas, which sought to strengthen cooperation on cybersecurity among partner nations, academia, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders. The United States understands the urgency of this endeavor. In keynote remarks to the graduating class, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Mieke Eoyang stressed the importance of this moment in the field of cybersecurity. The cyber domain is “increasingly under attack by malicious actors — whether they be criminals or nation states,” she said.
In the digital era, our collective security requires the attention and action not only of nation states but of an entire ecosystem. “This ecosystem of collective security is all of us working together against those who would disrupt the peace… and interfere with functionality,” Eoyang said.
Accordingly, she told participants their education and collaborative conversations on how to defend the digital domain are very important contributions to our collective security.
The annual cost of cybercrime to Latin America and the Caribbean is equivalent to $90 billion — a sizable amount in money and resources that could be focused elsewhere in the region. As of June 2022, 17 countries (about half) in Latin America and the Caribbean had national cybersecurity strategies in place, according to the Organization of American States. “The vulnerabilities of all our countries to cyberattacks and the costs they could have in pesos or human lives call for greater vigilance on the issue,” stated Dr. Paul Angelo, director of the Perry Center.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a few changes to the Center’s first in-person cyber policy course since 2019. Dr. Saavedra, the course director, noted, “We went to great lengths to implement biosafety standards, but we were also able to incorporate technological advances that occurred in the last two years as well as two new methodologies of learning.” The course included a simulation exercise that involved role playing and applying complex concepts in an evolving threat scenario. “The simulation exercise and a philosophy based on ‘how-to-think, not what-to-think’ allowed participants to better consolidate knowledge acquired in the classroom,” he said.
Overall, “the programmatic content and the methodology employed deepened participants’ understanding of cyberspace governance, broadened their capacity for analysis and formulation of sound policies and strategies, and prepared them to make informed decisions in the field of cybersecurity,” added Dr. Angelo.
Building collaborative networks
Addressing the graduates on July 22, Dr. Angelo said, “From this moment on, you will be in a better position to face the challenges ahead, supported by a network of experts in the search for solutions to the problems we share as neighbors, friends, and partners.”
Horacio Javier Hernández Otaño, advisor in the Information Directorate of Argentina’s Ministry of Defense, knows firsthand the value of the Perry Center alumni network. Returning for the cyber policy course, he first attended the Center’s Strategy and Defense Policy course in 2018.
“There were 90 participants, and the group is still active four years later,” he recalls. “It’s very productive networking.” The group collaborates regularly, sharing research and expertise in real time.
Mariana Grilli Belinotte, a PhD student in Brazil’s Army Command and General Staff College, said she appreciated being “able to see what our neighbors are doing in the region because sometimes we lack this context, and we stay too focused on our own countries. The course has helped me realize how many opportunities we have to work together.”
As noted by Lt. Gen. Plehn when he engaged with the group, “None of us knows everything, but together we can offer superb counsel and support to one another… We are partners in this effort.”