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North Louisiana a major player in cybersecurity

Louisiana’s cybersecurity efforts were on display for the nation at the National Governor’s Association National Summit on Cybersecurity held in Shreveport-Bossier last week and North Louisiana showed it is an example for collaboration and cybersecurity advancement in the nation.

“The I-20 corridor in Louisiana is now one of the fastest growing cyber security regions, not just in Louisiana, not just in the South, but in the nation,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards during his keynote address at the summit. “I believe Louisiana can become an example for others.”

In 2017, the Governor’s Office created the Louisiana Cybersecurity Commission to create a whole-state approach to cybersecurity and protect the government, businesses and citizens. This government structure is designed to “break down the communication barriers between the government and industry in order to build the trust that was necessary to move the state forward.”

Many states offer similar structures and throughout the summit, it was clear all of the states rely heavily on their National Guard, a unique group of individuals who serve in both the private and public sector and bring a wealth of expertise, particularly in the cybersecurity realm.

 “Perhaps the most important part of cybersecurity is workforce training and that is something we have had a laser focus on in Louisiana,” Edwards said.

Edwards moderated a panel on just that: Preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals in Louisiana. This panel included Dr. Rick Bateman, Chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College; Dr. Les Guice, President of La. Tech University; Rick Gallot, President of Grambling State University; Yogesh Khanna, Chief Technology Officer at General Dynamics Information Technology; Ralph Russo, Director of Information Technology Programs at Tulane University; and Craig Spohn, Executive Director of the Cyber Innovation Center.

The Governor touted the programs offered at the colleges and universities, particularly those in North Louisiana as BPCC boasts three associates degrees, one academic certificate and two technical competency areas in cyber; Louisiana Tech offers the nation’s first four-year degree in cyber engineering and anticipates with that degree the university will soon be first in the number of cyber engineering degrees awarded in the nation; Grambling State University is offering the state’s first four-year degree in cybersecurity starting in the fall of 2019 and the university already is in the Top 50 nationally for the number of African-American graduates in computer science and computer information systems.

One point that was clear throughout the conference was reiterated by Bateman during the panel: Cybersecurity is for everyone. And, BPCC has a vision for embedding cyber into all of its programs to build a generational workforce that is better prepared to defend against cyber attacks.

Barksdale Air Force Base is also a large part of the I-20 technology corridor as well. Khanna said “veterans are a strong part of our fabric” as the company has veterans as 30 percent of their workforce.

Guice pointed to their partnerships with companies as key to their degrees and success as GDIT for example has taken students into their facilities.

Related Links:

Louisiana Tech students prepare for ‘Cyber Storm 2019’

Governors gather for National Governor’s Conference – National Summit on State Cybersecurity

Lawmakers hope to put Louisiana on the map for cybersecurity efforts

Bossier City high school’s cyber team wins national competition

The Air Force just gave working spouses a boost for PCS moves

The Air Force will now reimburse spouses of airmen up to $500 to pay for new state-required licenses or recertifications for their jobs when their families are reassigned to another state.

The new Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, which took effect May 15, will cover at least some of those costs incurred during permanent change-of-station or change-of-assignment moves that were authenticated on or after Dec. 12, 2017, the Air Force said in a Wednesday release. This is the first time the Air Force will reimburse these costs.

Some states allow “reciprocity,” or recognize occupational licenses or certifications issued by other states, but not all. As a result, some working military spouses had to spend hundreds of dollars getting relicensed or recertified when their families were transferred. Military services were authorized to begin offering these reimbursements under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

“Part of taking care of airmen and families means making it easier for spouses to continue their careers after a military move,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

Under the new policy, at least some of the fees for exams, certifications and registrations for jobs such as — but not limited to — teaching, cosmetology, real estate and nursing would be reimbursed. These costs must be incurred and paid after the date the airman’s orders to move have come through, but no more than 24 months after that point.

According to a frequently asked questions document posted on the Air Force Personnel Center’s website, the program will apply to active duty, Guard or Reserve airmen and their families. Transfers to or from duty stations in U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., will also qualify.

But moves as a result of accessions, Career Intermission Program sabbaticals, retirement or separation from the armed forces will not be eligible for reimbursement. Moves to or from overseas locations also will not qualify.

Click here for the full article.

Bossier Parish Graduation Rate Reaches All-Time High

Before the Bossier Parish Senior Class of 2018-19 graduates this weekend, the Louisiana Department of Education is focusing on the preceding class that reached an all-time high school graduation rate in Bossier Parish.

State graduation rate data for 2017-18 was released today and Bossier Schools received news 85.7 percent of its previous class graduated, reflecting a gain of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year and setting a record number of students receiving their high school diploma. Three success stories, in particular, were at Benton High School, where the cohort graduation rate reached 93.3 percent; Bossier High saw its graduation rate skyrocket by more than 14 percentage points; and Plain Dealing increased its number of graduates by nearly four percentage points.

Not only did more students graduate than ever before, but more than half the Senior Class of 2017-18 throughout Bossier Parish earned credentials beyond their high school diploma. This is the result of them taking advantage of opportunities such as Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment, as well as Industry Based Certifications (IBCs), a direct correlation that indicates a student’s preparedness for college or readiness for the workforce. As a result, a rise of more than 2 percentage points was also seen in the district’s strength of diploma.

“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Bossier Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey. “Our high school accountability coaches are one of the main reasons we are seeing this level of success. They focus on opportunities for our students and outcomes, while working in partnership with their entire teaching staff that is also working collaboratively. It is all vital to our children’s academic success and directly impacts school scores and graduation rates.”

GOV. EDWARDS ANNOUNCES CYBER CENTER PARTNERSHIP IN LOUISIANA

Cybint Solutions, Bossier Parish Community College to create cyber asset for employers, educators
Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined Chancellor Rick Bateman of Bossier Parish Community College and Chief Operations Officer Bryan Dickens of Cybint Solutions Inc. to announce a new cyber center partnership at the Northwest Louisiana college.In a ceremony at the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Bateman and Dickens signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing the parties to the development of a cyber center that will be located at Bossier Parish Community College’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology. The BPCC building will host ongoing cybersecurity training, credential coursework, and field exercises on a virtual cyber range for in-person trainees and online participants across the state and around the world.

Read more about the announcement.

Governors gather for National Governor’s Conference – National Summit on State Cybersecurity

In the backyard of our very own Cyber Innovation Center, governors from around the country are gathered in Shreveport-Bossier for the National Governor’s Conference – National Summit on State Cybersecurity.

Gov. John Bel Edwards currently serves as co-chairman of the National Governors Association’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity and brought the summit to his home state.

One of the first sessions on Tuesday was about Cybersecurity and the whole-of-state approach. Major Gen. Glenn Curtis, Adjutant General of the Louisiana National Guard, started the discussion, touting the steps taken in Louisiana since December 2017 to start a state-wide Cybersecurity Commission, with Craig Spohn, Executive Director/President of the Cyber Innovation Center, serving as the chair. Many of the members of the state commission were in attendance at the session.

MG Curtis, who co-chairs the commission, said the state is on stronger footing since the creation of the commission, which he touted as having created a sense of trust throughout the state, fostering more communication and information sharing to combat the risks/response associated with cybersecurity attacks.

One main concern MG Curtis spoke to was the smaller businesses in our state and how they may not have the resources to combat and bounce back after a cyber-attack from ransomware. The Louisiana State Analytical and Fusion Exchange is in place to help “detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”

MG Curtis also communicated the commission is also concerned that if the state has a catastrophic event (i.e. Katrina), “our adversaries will take advantage” in the form of a cyber-attack.

The Commission has created protocol within the state’s emergency response plan and they have pre-event planning, simulated incident exercises and then post-event debriefing to make sure the systems in place work and to provide any improvements needed.

Other leaders at the conference – from New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia – agreed with MG Curtis, expounding on the work at the executive level in their states in conjunction with additional entities, particularly the National Guard. New Jersey Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness Jared Maples touted their NJCCIC website Both New Jersey and North Carolina have heavy cybersecurity pieces around election security, as all states are working toward. Louisiana revised provisions around election security during the 2018 legislative session.

Bossier City high school’s cyber team wins national competition

Competition was intense and the obstacles the Airline Robotics/Cyber team had to overcome were challenging. Yet at the end of the National Governors Association Cyber Competition, Billy Neill’s team of cyber sleuths excelled.

The competition, sponsored by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and hosted by the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), took place over the course of 24 hours in a virtual environment called a cyber range at each team’s school site.

“CTF (Capture the Flag) is a cybersecurity challenge designed to both test knowledge and teach cyber-related skills,” said Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach for the Cyber Innovation Center and NICERC. “The problems are broken into categories, such as reconnaissance, web exploitation, cryptography, networking and reverse engineering, with each challenge having a varying point value corresponding to the perceived difficulty.”

Airline’s two teams were among more than 312 from 27 states vying for top billing in the national competition, making their placement especially impressive. The Vikings placed 32 and 34. Nolten called Airline’s performance “amazing.”

“I’m always incredibly proud of what my students end up accomplishing,” Neill said. “These poor kids are trying to run Shell on computers with so little processing power that it would lag out for five minutes while they were writing the code, not even running it yet. They would have to pull out their phone and try to solve a Cryptography question while they waited for the computer to finally process enough to accept inputs. The personal tenacity it takes to not let that frustration take over is something inspiring.”

Read the full article here.

Let’s collaborate to be #bettertogether

Throughout this election season, there has been some good dialogue around the two propositions we saw on the May 4 ballot. However, some of that dialogue became contentious and divided our community.

Although these two measures – for salary increases and technology upgrades – failed, we believe there is a solution where teachers and support staff can get a much-needed raise yet also keep property tax rates affordable for our residents and businesses.

Today begins the rebuilding.

The Bossier Chamber of Commerce is ready to take the lead to assemble a group of community leaders to discuss the next steps for our education system as well as our community. If you would like to be a part of this effort, let us know!

There is not an easy answer or it would have been found by now. But, we can all have CONFIDENCE in a plan that includes all stakeholders in the solution.

We truly are #bettertogether.

Facts on the Bossier Parish School Tax Referendums, May 4, 2019

April 12, 2019 special called board meeting
MOTION: To take no position, but offer feedback to the School Board (by paper ballot)
RECOMMENDATION: The Bossier Chamber Board of Directors recommends to the Bossier Parish School Board that they pull the propositions off the May 4, 2019 ballot and come back with a better collaborative offering.

Proposition No. 1 of 2 (Millage)
Shall Parishwide School District of the Parish of Bossier, State of Louisiana (the “District”), levy a twenty-two and ninety-four hundredths (22.94) mills tax on all property subject to taxation in the District for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2019 and ending with the year 2028 (an estimated $22,192,464 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for the purpose of giving additional support to the public elementary and secondary schools of the Parish by providing funds for the payment of salaries and benefits of teachers and other school employees?
A vote for would increase property taxes across the parish for businesses and residents alike. According to the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor’s office, Proposition 1 at 22.94 mills would constitute an increase of 21.10% for businesses within the city of Bossier City but the increase varies outside of the city limits. For the schools, it would increase teacher pay by $7,200 across the board and $3,000 for support personnel.
A vote against would maintain property taxes at approximately the current levels.

Proposition No. 2 of 2 (Millage)
Shall Parishwide School District of the Parish of Bossier, State of Louisiana (the “District”), levy a three and twenty-two hundredths (3.22) mills tax on all property subject to taxation in the District for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2019 and ending with the year 2028 (an estimated $3,090,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for the purpose of giving additional support to the public elementary and secondary schools of the Parish by funding the acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the infrastructure, hardware, software and related furnishings, equipment, supplies and facilities for computer and related technology training and instruction in the public elementary and secondary schools of the Parish?
A vote for would increase property taxes across the parish for businesses and residents alike. According to the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor’s office, Proposition 2 at 3.22 mills would constitute an increase of 2.96% for businesses within the city of Bossier City but the increase varies outside of the city limits. It would give the schools approximately $3 million per year to invest in technology upgrades, mainly in infrastructure, to increase wireless capability and allow the school district to comply with FCC national recommendations for bandwidth and Internet broadband capability per student.
A vote against would maintain property taxes at approximately the current levels.

**If both millages pass, according to the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor’s office, this would constitute a total property tax increase of 24% for businesses within the city of Bossier City but the increase varies outside of the city limits.

SURVEY: The Bossier Chamber of Commerce polled its membership, asking about their support for the two tax referendum propositions on the May 4 ballot. The results were:
Proposition 1 (salaries):
22.2% For
16.6% Against
60% Against but encourage collaboration
Proposition 2 (technology)
32.2% For
18.8% Against
48.8% Against but encourage collaboration

See the full fact sheet here!

Let North Louisiana be heard

Go to the state capitol for Northern Exposure

Northwest Louisiana and Northeast Louisiana are joining together for the Northern Exposure Legislative Day at the Louisiana State Capitol on May 7. Elected officials, business leaders and civic leaders all along the I-20 corridor will meet with state legislators, department heads and the governor to show the collective strength of our region.

This day is a great opportunity to show what collaboration can mean when all of the stakeholders in North Louisiana join together as one voice at the Capitol.

Register
Sign up to ride the bus!

UPDATED: Bossier Chamber urges School Board to withdraw tax propositions from May 4 ballot

Last Friday, the Bossier Chamber Board of Directors voted at a special called board meeting to take no position on the tax referendums on the May 4 ballot, but to offer feedback to the School Board. The Board recommended that the Bossier Parish School Board pull the propositions off the May 4, 2019 ballot and come back with a better collaborative offering. 

See our fact sheet here!