Former CIA director John Brennan sees cyber security as one of the most important challenges facing today’s government, and since the business realm owns most of the infrastructure of the Internet, it will take a combined effort from the private, public and academic sectors to protect vital information.
“It would be a major effort, something akin to the Manhattan Project,” said Brennan, who spoke at the inaugural Intersport Executive Marketers Leadership Summit on Thursday at the West Lake Country Club.
Programs such as the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, which will be part of Augusta University’s Riverfront Campus, will be key in training people in protecting the information grid so vital to everyday life.
Brennan said he’s impressed with what’s taking place in the Augusta area in the information technology arena, especially at Augusta University and with Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon. In October, he visited AU and met with President Brooks Keel.
“I do believe there are important opportunities here in Georgia,” he said.
As part of thesummit, Alyson Shontell, editor-in-chief of Business Insider U.S., interviewed Brennan in front of an audience. He spoke on a range of topics, including his 25 years in the CIA, current affairs and the different presidents he served under.
Brennan, who was head of the CIA from 2013 until January, served in various capacities with the CIA under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
While he said he believed all three were interested in doing what they felt was best for the country, he said that he saw Bush and Obama as two men who put aside partisanship and performance ratings when they entered the Oval Office.
He said Bush had a thirst for knowledge and would ask questions of the experts to get a better understanding of the issues at hand. Obama would stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading and learning about issues. Obama would often ask people what they thought of a specific problem while Bush asked more direct questions.
Nevertheless Brennan, who calls himself an independent when it comes to politics, said he didn’t always like the decisions the presidents made.
While Brennan is concerned about the safety of information in light of the professional hackers and foreign governments trying to compromise it, another concern Brennan has is the current climate in Washington . He said he sees it becoming more partisan rather than representing the best interests of the American people.
“Partisan undercurrents in Washington run deep, and they are swirling about hobbling the government’s ability to do what it needs to do on a national and international level,” he said.
Brennan has butted heads with President Donald Trump a few times. He has been vocal about Trump’s travel ban as well as the president comparing the intelligence community to Nazi Germany.
He said he sees some of Trump’s administration as haphazard and disjointed, such as the appointment of Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s National Security Adviser, a position Brennan said Flynn was “ill-suited” to fill.
Brennan said he hopes that things will change over the next several months as Trump’s administration settles in.
Now retired, Brennan plans to spend more time with his wife, children and newest grandchild.
“I need to take time to figure out what to do in the next chapter of my life,” he said.
In addition to Brennan, the summit featured Jose Andres, who was named one of magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and outstanding chef by the James Beard Foundation. Kris Moon, vice president for the James Beard Foundation, was scheduled to speak but was unable to fly in because of Wednesday’s storms.
Founded in 1985, Intersport is a team of “directors, producers, writers, strategists, negotiators, implementers, digital natives and visionaries with a 30 year history of building differentiated sports and entertainment platforms that engage consumers,” according to its website.