SynED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers, announced that Christopher Newborn, recently retired Professor of Information Technology (Cybersecurity Emphasis) at Defense Acquisition University (DAU), is this month's CyberHero.
Chris's decades of experience and approach to his work positioned him to be an outstanding advocate for the protection of sensitive information in the U.S. Defense Industrial Base supply chain, the nation's private sector defense contractors. He worked with the acquisition workforce and Defense Industrial Base professionals who are responsible for acquiring, deploying, and maintaining cybersecurity capabilities and defending critical networks, systems, and data.
While at DAU, Chris provided critical support to the California Advanced Supply Chain Analysis and Diversification Effort (CASCADE and CASCADE II), established by the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research to bolster California's defense supply chain cybersecurity resilience.
Chris and I worked together on the CASCADE program, and he was incredibly helpful in demonstrating the challenges that defense suppliers face in meeting requirements and finding cybersecurity workers. His duty to country and helping others really shines through. I have no doubt that his 'retirement' will just mean he's starting a new chapter in his service to others and national security."
Liz Fraumann, Director and Senior Project Manager at synED
CASCADE has spurred projects that support business assistance programs and the growth of the cybersecurity workforce through cybersecurity-related education curricula, training, and apprenticeship programs.
Chris takes a hands-on, real-world approach to his work. "I always say, I'm not necessarily a professor, I'm a consultant," Mr. Newborn shared. "The reason I say that is, I will take things in a real world scenario and put it to how it applies to you, so you can come up with efficient and effective methods to counter the threat, or at least come up with trade-offs."
The U.S. government has responded to increasing threats to classified and unclassified information by issuing statutory and regulatory policies and procedures. However, these cybersecurity guidelines and requirements have proven to be challenging for businesses to properly implement and execute.
"We have done a great job when we classify information as secret and above, we have great processes and procedures in place," added Mr. Newborn. "The problem is, when Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and other unclassified information is accumulated over a period of time, this information, when aggregated, can provide enough information to our foreign adversaries and competitors to get a leg-up."
The Defense Industrial Base supply chain is complex and layered, with prime contractors, subcontractors, vendors and manufacturers, with a wide spectrum of size, experience and capabilities at every level. "[Our adversaries are] not just after our prime contractors and sub-contractors, they're after our manufacturers and vendors," added Mr. Newborn said.
Many contractors, manufacturers, and vendors are small to medium-sized businesses that have limited staff and resources to meet ever-changing cybersecurity guidelines and requirements. To help mitigate these challenges, the government has sponsored training to help them better understand the statutory and regulatory requirements.
While at DAU, Chris supported conferences and conducted workshops with Defense Industrial Base partners. With another DAU professor, Dr. Paul Shaw, Chris developed training content and supported multilateral "bootcamps" on acquisition topics, bringing in government employees, vendors, and academia to illuminate common issues and find solutions.
Laura Rodgers, Senior Manager for Cyber Compliance at the North Carolina Military Business Center, said Chris brings a unique perspective that can't be found anywhere else. "He puts some structure on this nebulous thing called cybersecurity, and then he's got the technical chops to help too. He's been very helpful to the North Carolina defense industrial base and we've benefitted greatly from his expertise and insight."
After meeting Laura on a webinar presentation, Chris offered to attend a weekly class put on by Laura so he can answer questions from her students. He attends each week and stays on late to answer questions. "There are just not many out there who are that committed to national security," added Ms. Rodgers.
Chris graduated from Atlanta's Morehouse College in 1982, a historically Black men's liberal arts college. That year, Chris joined General Dynamics, where he worked on early electrification efforts for the M1 Abrams tank and the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
While working at General Dynamics in Detroit, Chris joined the Navy, where he received valuable training and education that furthered his career. He remained in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1984 to 1990. During Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Chris was at the Tank Automotive Command where he oversaw all the secondary spare parts for the Army. Chris was the most senior person of color, having been promoted quickly to GS-14, the second-highest civilian Federal government employee ranking.
"I may not have a uniform on, but if I do my job to the best of my ability as an acquisition professional, giving the tools to the warfighter, then they have a chance of doing their duty and going home safely to their families," Chris said of his work during Operation Desert Storm. "That is my motto, and that is what I've been following ever since."
Chris was appointed to the Army's civilian staff at the Pentagon, where he worked on acquisition management from the government side. He says his time working at the Pentagon and living in the Washington, DC area was a career highlight. In 1997, Chris joined the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR)'s Cybersecurity and Program Management Office, just as the military command was transitioning from Crystal City, Virginia, to San Diego. His duty was to procure and manage cyber capabilities for the program offices at SPAWAR, becoming both a subject matter expert and an acquisition manager.
Then, after 30 years in government, Chris moved to DAU to pass on his knowledge. "I look at myself as a conduit of information, almost like a router. That is why I always come back and say, 'Sometimes you have to be that subject matter expert, sometimes you have to be the facilitator, and sometimes you just have to take notes."
After 37 years with the Department of Defense, Chris officially retired in April 2022 and recently moved to North Carolina. Chris plans to return to DAU as a part-time Intermittent Professor to complete his work on a curriculum for cybersecurity requirements in the Defense Industrial Base. There is no one better placed to strengthen cybersecurity in the Defense acquisitions supply chain and workforce.
He also hopes to be a bridge between the East and West Coasts' military businesses. In his spare time, he and his wife Agnes plan to volunteer with the local public school district to support teachers.
About SynED CyberHero's Series
SynED's CyberHero's series is a monthly column published nationally that highlights individuals who quietly go above and beyond in helping to secure our nation and communities by developing cyber talent. SynED is a national non-profit that identifies and highlights emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers. SynED is the proud recipient of the 2021 Association for Career & Technical Education Business-Education Partnership Award.