Gov. DeSantis announces $20M for USF cybersecurity program

Due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, funding comes at critical time, governor says

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Tampa Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

TAMPA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday morning at the University of South Florida, announcing the disbursement of $20 million for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, hosted by the university.

Framed as a continuation of DeSantis’ advocacy for Career and Technical Education opportunities in Florida, the funding will be disbursed further through the center to regional partners in order to expand existing programs that help middle and high school students obtain cybersecurity credentials before they enter college, the governor said.

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“(The) funding will be used to train new teachers, purchase training equipment that will be used by students, and other associated endeavors,” DeSantis said. “This is really a first-of-its-kind program, there’s no other state that’s using a regional model that will allow students as early as middle school to start earning credentials in IT and cybersecurity.”

DeSantis said that the funding comes at a critical time, as thousands of cybersecurity and IT jobs in Florida remain unseated while industry leaders anticipate cyberattacks of critical American infrastructure from Russia, China and other nations. To this point, the governor implored to “look at what’s going on around the world,” referencing the 2021 Colonial Pipeline hack as an example.

“I mean, a country like Russia, China, this cyber field is something that they use to try to advance their interests and of course, targets in the United States are going to be absolutely on the top of their list,” DeSantis said. “The typical major business, finance, all these different fields, they are having to bat off cyber attacks all the time, it’s a major, major thing and yet, there are 22,000 unfilled high paid cybersecurity jobs just right here in Florida.”

Retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell, former National Security Agency director and now executive director of the USF cybersecurity program, echoed this point.

“The Russians so far, in Ukraine, have not attacked our critical infrastructure. They have that option. They have malware deployed currently. We are at risk, it is at a strategic level, and we must do the kinds of things that the governor just outlined to get our students interested, enrolled and skilled in cybersecurity,” McConnell said.

Henry Mack, senior chancellor of the Florida Department of Education, said that applications for the $20M will be released March 8 on

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.