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By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 1:57 p.m.)
MIDDLETOWN - The Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance plans to develop a Maritime Cybersecurity Center of Excellence to better protect Rhode Island’s ports, defense industry and public and private sectors across the state.
SENEDIA, as the alliance is known, spelled out that recommendation in a new report released Tuesday about helping secure and build economic growth for Rhode Island’s defense industry.
The organization is an alliance of approximately 60 companies in southeastern New England that do business with the U.S. departments of Defense and Homeland Security by advocating for members, educating and informing the public and enhancing relationships between local communities, elected representatives and the federal defense organizations in those communities.
“We looked at this from a Rhode Island perspective, the high tech workforce and other strengths [including] academic institutions,” said Molly Donohue Magee, SENEDIA’s executive director. A center of excellence focused on the Ocean State’s ports and maritime industry would “build on a great strength that we have,” she said.
According to the report, which the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council helped research, threats to cybersecurity have grown globally and, according to President Barack Obama’s February executive order, must be confronted proactively.
“With its strong defense sector,” the report states, “critical port infrastructure, ideal coastal location and nationally recognized cybersecurity educational programs, Rhode Island is uniquely positioned to provide a comprehensive, innovative approach to maritime cybersecurity research.”
In the past month, SENEDIA has already started discussing its ideas with key stakeholders in Rhode Island, Magee said. The alliance is ready to lead the effort to “build consensus” for this particular center of excellence and work with government leaders, educational institutions and business and industry to develop and economic plan to create this entity.
“We want to build a coalition within the state,” she said. “We’ve already been out starting the effort and overall received a positive response, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work to do, so we’re going to aim our efforts at starting to build the needed coalition to move this forward.”
The report identifies several priorities for the state’s defense industry, include developing a strategic defense industry economic plan; reviewing the state’s tax and regulatory structure to identify ways to make it more competitive; exploring ways to mitigate energy cost volatility for military sites in Rhode Island; advocating for the implementation of existing law surrounding the Military Installation Fund; and supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce development.
Magee said she wanted to highlight the cybersecurity initiative because it would have a broad impact not only on the maritime and defense industries but also on the public and private sector as a whole.
Besides strong congressional leadership, Rhode Island has several institutions of higher education that have recognized the importance of cybersecurity and developed ways to educate, research and train people to combat it, the report states. Some of those schools include the University of Rhode Island and Salve Regina, Roger Williams and Brown universities.
The National Governors Association has developed a Resource Center for State Cybersecurity that states like Michigan and Maryland are building on, so a similar initiative focused on early detection, rapid response, control and restoration as a collaborative public-private partnership for the maritime industry could raise awareness, define best practices, “harmonize” regulatory policies and encourage sharing information, the report states.
The report is available at www.senedia.org.