Cybersecurity

I was greatly heartened to learn that the venerable firm of Booz Allen, which has operated solely as a government contractor since 2008, is expanding its reach into the private sector where it is sorely needed. Also, our country needs a Booz Allen with a larger footprint.

Disclaimer -- I have a history with Booz Allen. When I retired from the U.S. Army in 1985, after 35 years of service, I joined Booz Allen for what would prove to be a mutually beneficial 11-year run. I was assigned to work on information technology which has always been my stock and trade. I was pleased to learn from the inside that Booz Allen (then Booz Allen Hamilton) was operated by highly intelligent people who nourished a culture of integrity. I knew from personal experience that was not true of all government contractors. It was refreshing.

One of my first projects was to work with the Electronics Industry of America (EIA) helping forecast what electronic requirements would be five or 10 years down the road. Of course, this was just when communications technology was about to take off, so that was a tall order. Our main job was to help government agencies anticipate their IT needs so they could seek funding from Congress. I also got to work on a variety of initiatives to help bring technology into classrooms where our young people could begin to become acquainted with the digital revolution that was then just beginning to remake our world.

Of course, Booz's interest in the private sector was not just a matter of inspiration. For a long time the company has depended on the government for the lion's share of its revenues, and as we all know, government agencies have been cutting back in recent years. If Booze wants to grow and prosper, it must go where the money is - the private sector.

Booz has already demonstrated its ability transfer knowledge from the public sector to the private. For example (one among many) the company used the experience it had building military command centers to create Major League Baseball's center for instant-replay analysis in New York City where people review close calls around the nation. (I know a few people who think this is one innovation we could do without, like the designated hitter rule, but I leave issues like that to others wiser than myself.)

I believe Booz is in an excellent position to assume a leadership role in our quest for cybersecurity. The people at Booz understand as few others do that total cybersecurity is not possible. The Internet is an infinitely long tunnel filled with vulnerabilities. There will always be threats from hackers and foreign meddlers. But if government and private business can learn to work together - to share information and resources - we can do a much better job of managing the risk. Booz Allen's new holistic approach to embracing both the public and private sectors gives it a strong hand to play in what promises to be a long and complex cybersecurity campaign.

Lt. Gen. Clarence E. "Mac" McKnight, Jr., (USA-Ret) is the author of "From Pigeons to Tweets: A General Who Led Dramatic Change in Military Communications", published by The History Publishing Company.