Is it time for a Cyber Peace Corps?

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Other Writing
Publication Date: 
October 25, 2017

Hackers around the world are attacking targets as diverse as North Dakota’s state government, the Ukrainian postal service and a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia. Unfortunately, many governments – in the developing world, and even cash-strapped states and local communities in the United States – lack the skills to effectively protect themselves.

The U.S. has an opportunity to serve itself and the world by revitalizing the ideals of global service popularized in another era of its history. Congress should expand the mandates of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to create a Cyber Peace Corps. It could do this by amending the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which was passed in 2009 to reorganize and expand the AmeriCorps program.

A call to service

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 as a way for American volunteers to bring their skills and energy to the world. In the decades since, more than 225,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in more than 140 nations. Currently, there are more than 7,000 volunteers serving abroad in 65 nations working on a wide range of projects including fighting hunger by reducing soil erosion, promoting maternal health and teaching environmental sustainability.

Though not without its critics, overall the Peace Corps has done a tremendous amount of good around the world. It has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support at a relatively small cost.

Similarly, more than 900,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps since its founding in 1993, at more than 21,000 locations across the country, contributing some 1.2 billion hours of service. These efforts are focused on community support in the U.S., through disaster response and recovery work, and providing assistance to local residents who are disabled, poor, elderly or homeless.

AmeriCorps has not enjoyed the same level of bipartisan political support as the Peace Corps, in part, some argue, because inadequate funding has limited its potential. The Serve America Act boosted AmeriCorps’ funding to more than US$1 billion annually, for example, but this is an amount still far less than the $10 billion per year that the original proponents envisioned.

Expanding service options

Adding cybersecurity to the mandates of America’s national and international service programs would help fight the dire cyber-insecurity problems facing the country and the world. The effort could bolster political support, and funding, for the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. But more importantly, it could help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Read the full post at The Conversation