From the Shreveport Times:

An alarming convergence of trends — aging western populations, a shift of economy and growth to the Far East and a shift in the numbers of higher-degree graduates in the West versus the developing world on a globe that is rapidly becoming connected by computers and the Web — were noted by one of the U.S. Air Force’s top scientists this week in an area visit.

“Cyberspace is essential to all Air Force missions,” Dr. Kamal Jabbour, with the Air Force Research Lanoratory’s Information Directorate at Rome, N.Y., told a rapt crowd of more than 100 people Wednesday at the Silver Star Smokehouse in Bossier City.

The gathering, a regular event sponsored by the Cyber Innovation Center and National Cyber Research Park, culminated a three-day visit for consultations by Jabbour that included time with cyber security students at Louisiana Tech University.

Despite the acknowleged need for cyber in everyday and critical military missions, “increasingly, the cyberspace domain is contested or denied,” he said. “Our ability to address opportunities and threats is constrained by time, treasure and talent. … Our missions are at risk from increasingly sophisticated adversaries and growing systems interdependencies.”

Jabbour’s prepared remarks, condensed from a lengthier talk titled “Cyber Vision 2025,” were delivered in a professorial style by the lean young scientist, who presented a contrast in a conservative suit with a flag lapel pin and running shoes, and the remarks were short and swift. But they were followed by three questions from the crowd, answered by unprepared but informed answers that offered splashes of humor that drew laughter from the crowd, despite the dark nature of the future envisioned by cyber planners.

“As the economies of China and India grow, the United States will have significantly reduced political influence, particularly in Asia,” he said.

Dramatic increases in the numbers of Internet users, computers and the processing speeds of these and quantum leaps in the speeds at which data can be transmitted, as well as a similar increase in the numbers of malware threats, will force Western governments and militaries to adapt to a wife and new range of threats, he said.

Whether the brain power will be there to help counter these threats is in question, he said. China, for instance, is expected to see growth in the number of higher degrees awarded by the year 2025, while the United States will see its rate of such graduates flatline at a much lower level.

Greater emphasis has to be placed on STEM (Science, technology, Electronics and Mathematics) education, he said, to grow the field of citizen scientists to help counter the growing threats.

“As adversary capabilities grow, it will become increasingly necessary for the Air Force to recruit and retain the brightest scientists, engineers and cyber operators with the right education in cyber fundamentals, and then train those individuals in the art of cyber warfare,” he said.

“The U.S. university system is not producing the required quantity and quality of students educated in cyber specialties to compete with growing adversary capabilities,” he said. “The Air Force must advocate for, and influence, the development of curricula that include secure software coding, secure and trusted hardware architectures, and other areas of technical interest. By refocusing current Air Force STEM funding mechanisms towards cyber-specific areas of interest, it can influence the number of college graduates pursuing these degrees.”

His message resonated with listeners.

“It’s frightening,” said one, Linda Biernacki, who was one of the people who questioned Jabbour after his talk.

He said what she and other members of the Cyber Innovation Center, and the area universities that have partnered with the CIC to package STEM initiatives that can be extended nationally, can help avoid the imbalance of 2025 he envisions.

“You folks at the CIC and Louisiana Tech are leading the nation,” he said. “You folks are the solution.”