Former head of NSA leading effort to increase cybersecurity workforce

The former director of the National Security and National Intelligence agencies is now in Tampa, working to help fill a 500,000 shortfall in cybersecurity professionals.

Mike McConnell spent his career in Washington, D.C. Now he's at the University of South Florida, heading up a program to increase the number of cybersecurity graduates from Florida's public universities, with the ultimate goal of defending against cyberattacks.

"If you think about people who do cybersecurity as a skill, we're about 500,000 people short across the nation," says McConnell, 76, who served in the Navy during Vietnam and retired as a vice admiral.

He came out of retirement to serve as the new executive director of Cyber Florida. The Tampa-based group working with all of Florida's public universities to increase the number of cybersecurity graduates.

Last year, statewide, there were barely 500. McConnell wants to increase that to 5,000. He says the stakes are high.

"When you think about it, the capacity to bring down the global banking system, you get people's attention," McConnell said, adding the Tampa Bay area is home to the data centers of several of America's largest banks.

Telecommunications, transportation, water supply, and energy are also of major concern.

McConnell says adding to the cybersecurity workforce is essential to fighting threats, from the theft of intellectual property to election security.

"It's a Tampa problem, a Florida problem, and a national problem, and we have to address it," he says.

McConnell will split his time between Tampa and Washington where he will work on funding to grow cybersecurity programs at Florida universities. He says a new graduate in the field can earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.