Paul Abbate
Associate Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Huntsville, Alabama
October 21, 2020

U.S. Cyber Camp Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony

Remarks prepared for delivery.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Dr. Taylor and CEO/Executive Director Ramirez.

It’s a great privilege to be here to mark the beginning of this incredible new venture, which adds another important element to the FBI’s growing presence in Huntsville. Partnerships have always been essential to the work we do in the FBI, and today is another tremendous reflection of our progress in that regard. As we’ve seen in recent times, the cyber threat is constantly and rapidly evolving. It’s becoming more sophisticated, more pervasive, more dangerous, and certainly more damaging. And it shows no signs of stopping.

So we must constantly adapt, innovate, and evolve to meet that severe and ever-changing threat. And we know that no one agency can protect the United States from foreign cyber operations and combat significant cyber crime on its own.

We have to take a whole-of-society/whole-of-government approach. And that’s why we’re continuing to focus on partnerships at every level.

FBI Cyber Strategy

The FBI’s cyber strategy, while multi-layered, is sharply focused on imposing risk and consequences on cyber adversaries. The bottom line is, we want to make it harder and more costly for hackers and criminals to carry out their illicit activities online. And the best way for us to do that is by leveraging our unique authorities, world-class capabilities, and enduring partnerships.

And using all three of these elements in service to the larger cyber community. We’re taking a team approach to our work with both the public and private sectors—from other government agencies to companies of all sizes to universities and other relevant organizations.

We’ve created unique cyber centers where members of the cyber community can work alongside each other and build long-term relationships. Within government, that center is the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, or the NCIJTF.

Led by the FBI, the NCIJTF includes more than 30 co-located agencies from the intelligence community and law enforcement. We’ve pushed a significant amount of the FBI’s operational and analytical capabilities into the NCIJTF to strengthen its role as a core element of the nation’s cyber strategy.

But we know that government can’t do it alone. This fight requires all of us, government and the private sector, working together against threats to our national security, which equates to economic security.

That’s why we created another center to work with the defense industry, the National Defense Cyber Alliance, based right here in Huntsville, where experts from the FBI and cleared defense contractors share intelligence in real time.

It’s why we’re co-located with partners in industry, academia, and the financial sector as part of the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance in both Pittsburgh and New York City.

And it’s why agents in every single FBI field office spend a huge amount of time going out to companies and universities in their area, establishing relationships before there’s a problem and providing threat intelligence to help prepare and put up defenses.

The partnership we’re commemorating today represents a new kind of cyber center—a center for fostering skill and talent in the STEM disciplines, particularly in the cyber field.

FBI-USSRC Partnership

Engaging and motivating future generations to consider cyber careers with the Bureau is one of our highest priorities. We’re constantly working to position the FBI to meet the cyber threat five, 10, 15, 20 years in the future and beyond.

That includes developing and recruiting the top-notch cyber talent we’ll need to stop the world’s most sophisticated hackers and cyber criminals.

Since 2017, the U.S. Cyber Camp has been teaching students the fundamentals and skills needed as they move toward a future cyber career. They learn the ethics and responsibilities relating to personal data security for safeguarding networks. They’re introduced to different types of cyber careers. They meet professionals working in the cyber field. And they tour Redstone Arsenal and FBI facilities, including our Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.

The MOU we’re signing today takes things a step further. It formally allows the FBI to provide subject matter expertise for curriculum development at the U.S. Cyber Camp. That includes presenting students with realistic cyber scenarios—some from our own cases—and real-life responses. We’ll also provide presentations and briefings from an array of FBI experts, including cyber agents, analysts, and computer scientists.

Why are we doing this?

The head of our Cyber Division, Matt Gorham, likes to refer to cyber as a tapestry. Each agency is a thread in that tapestry. And while each thread is formidable on its own, when woven together, we make up a strong, interwoven fabric—far stronger than any single thread. And when we further weave in the threads of our international partners, the private sector, nonprofits, and academia, that fabric is unbreakable. This partnership, our partnership, can go a long way to weaving even greater strength into that tapestry.

We want to show young people across America that they can be part of it, and that there is an important role for them. And that they can do incredibly meaningful work that’s essential to the security of our country and to the safety of all Americans.


President Kennedy delivered a famous speech in Houston in 1962 known as the “moonshot” speech. This occurred just as America’s “space race” with the Soviet Union was ramping up. There is an iconic line in the speech: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

But in the beginning of the speech, there’s a less often cited, but no less powerful, piece of prose that calls to mind the current cyber environment. Kennedy condensed 50,000 years of history into just 50 years, to show how fast and how far we had come. In this condensed timeline, we learned to write and to use a cart with wheels just five years ago. The printing press came only this year. The steam engine was invented two months ago. Just last month, we introduced electric lights, telephones, automobiles, and airplanes. And only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power. In Kennedy’s words, “This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels ignorance, new problems, new dangers.”

Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward. By compressing 50,000 years of human history into a mere 50 years, President Kennedy painted a vivid picture of rapid technological development and awe-inspiring accomplishment. He also wisely pointed out that sometimes rapid change can have a downside. He could just as easily have been talking to us here today about cyber. So much is happening, so quickly, that it is sometimes a struggle to keep up.

Consider our cyber timeline:

  • Computer networks in the 1960s
  • Email in 1972
  • The World Wide Web in 1991
  • Google in 1998
  • Twitter in 2006
  • The iPhone in 2007
  • Bitcoin in 2009
  • Netflix streaming in 2010
  • Alexa in 2014
  • The Apple Watch in 2015
  • And in 2020, a global pandemic that’s forced millions to do so much virtually—from teleworking to online classes to telehealth medical appointments and even virtual happy hours.

And those are just the everyday cyber leaps and bounds. We’re not even talking about biotech, big data, cloud servers, the Darknet, AI, or the Internet of Things. The advances are breathtaking, but so are the risks. And so is the impact.

It’s a good time to think about where we are and where we need to be down the road.

We’ve got to recruit the best new talent to keep the new ignorance, new problems, and new dangers at bay. The vistas of cyber space promise high costs and hardships, but they also offer some really high rewards, for all of us.

On behalf of Director Wray, Deputy Director Bowdich, and the entire FBI, I want to thank everyone here at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the U.S. Cyber Camp for helping us reach the next generation of cyber talent. We’re grateful for your partnership and look forward to many more years of working together.

Thank you. Stay well, be safe, and God bless.