We are generally not big fans of government spending. That being said, as long as the US government is going to spend as much as it appears it is about to, we have a suggestion as to how some of it can be spent constructively.
Ninety years ago, when the world was gripped by the Great Depression, the US Government launched a massive stream of spending to spur the economy. This came to be known as the New Deal, but this was comprised of dozens of different programs. One of the best known of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the Highway 1 drive down the California Coast can thank the CCC for the bridges and roads that make that possible. Economic historians, and politicians, still debate how effective many of these programs were, but they accomplished two key tasks – they provided solid jobs and built infrastructure, much of which is still in use today.
Times are different today, but the US still needs big investment in infrastructure. And while we do not know much about highways and hydro-dams, we do know one area where the country could use some serious help – cyber defense. Do we even need to cite examples? The Colonial Pipeline is just the most recent example. The nation’s schools, hospitals, factories, local governments, and power plants all seem woefully exposed.
We propose that the government should fund a training and jobs program. Just as the 1930’s CCC trained thousands of skilled laborers, a modern Cyber Conservation Corps could create a well-trained work force armed with the latest techniques for hardening and protecting digital systems. The government should then sponsor their salaries (what’s a few billion dollars among friends?) at all the low-tech, highly vulnerable but critical sites around the country.
Now we have learned a few things about how funding programs work since the 30’s. And there are some blocs with very strong ideological objections to government jobs programs. But this program would work best if supported by private companies. For instance, let the security companies set up the best practices curriculum, with some government agency, like the NSA, judging that curriculum to ensure completeness and feasibility. CCC members would exit training with a list of tools they can direct their sites to deploy, recouping the investment the security companies made in the training program many times over. This would maintain a healthy degree of competition (remember the free market?) with the government focussed on training and regulation, rather than directly subsidizing a connected company or otherwise distorting the market.
Just as the CCC shored up the American Middle Class and laid the foundations for the 1940’s war time economy and then the 1950’s boom, a Cyber CCC could create a class of thought workers who might otherwise not have access to training. And these high tech jobs would be spread all over the country, not concentrated in a few clusters on the Coasts.
A few years ago, this program would never even be considered. But times have changed, and the threats have only gotten more serious. So maybe it is not such a crazy idea.