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Major General Brett T. Williams, USAF  

Former Director of Operations, U.S. Cyber Command; Former Director of Communications, U.S. Pacific Command; Combat-Experienced Fighter Pilot

Brett Turnage Williams is a recognized expert in cyberspace security. He is a sought-after speaker for his ability to put the complex technical aspects of cyber into language that can be understood by senior executives who must integrate cyber security within the larger context of business operations. As an Air Force major general, Williams provided several keynote speeches and served as an expert panelist on cyber security in a variety of large DoD and federal government events. Having retired after 33 years of service, Williams is bringing his experience to the private sector with a particular focus on strengthening our nation’s ability to protect critical infrastructure from malicious cyber attacks.

Williams’s final active duty assignment (2012–2014) was as the director of operations (J3) at U.S. Cyber Command where he was responsible for worldwide, full-spectrum cyberspace operations in support of national strategic objectives. In addition, he was directly responsible for the operations and defense of DoD networks. Williams also served as the director of communications (J6) for U.S. Pacific Command (2009–2011). Prior to becoming a “cyber warrior,” Williams served in a wide variety of command, operational and staff positions as a fighter pilot flying the F-15C.

Williams is a graduate of Duke University with a BS in Computer Science. In addition, he holds an MA in Business Administration/Management from Webster University, an MA in National Security and Strategy Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and an MA in Airpower Art and Science from the Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies.

Williams is married to the former Marianne Tango from Washington, NJ. Marianne is also a Duke graduate as well as a retired Air Force officer. They have two children, Mikaela and Sean Michael.

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Speech Topics


Cybersecurity – Cost, Risk or Asset?

The answer is all three. Companies today must look at cybersecurity in a very holistic manner; it is not just an IT issue. Cybersecurity is a cost to be controlled and in this speech, Brett offers a model for thinking about how much “cyber stuff” is enough and how to avoid spending money without increasing capability. Cybersecurity also represents a risk that must be managed, and it must be managed within the company’s overall risk framework. Brett discusses cyber risk in relation to overall business success. Finally, cybersecurity must be considered an asset. Increasingly customers are going to evaluate product and service providers along the lines of cybersecurity. Sound cybersecurity practices provide a competitive advantage and therefore generate revenue in today’s market. A major challenge for today’s senior executive is understanding enough about the technical nature of cyber to make appropriate strategic level decisions. In this presentation, Brett offers a plain language overview of cyberspace—what it is and how to put it in context with the rest of your enterprise.

Freedom of Maneuver in Cyberspace

You have freedom of maneuver in cyberspace if you can operate in cyberspace at a known and accepted level of risk. Most companies don’t understand their current level of risk, so they cannot determine if it is acceptable. The current approach usually involves a variety of network security measures following guidelines such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and the SANS 20 Critical Security Controls. While these actions are necessary, they are not sufficient to handle the advanced persistent threat that is becoming more prevalent every day. In this presentation, Brett Williams provides a detailed operating concept he has adapted for the private sector from his work at the DoD as the director of operations for U.S Cyber Command. He discusses a process for ensuring that the right decisions regarding cyber security are made at the right level in an organization. Williams explains how training and wargaming are critical components of cyber defense and offers tips for getting the best training from your red team. This presentation is focused on senior executives to mid-level managers who already have a good understanding of cyber defense and are looking for ways to become an adaptive cyber-defense organization.

Fighter Pilot to Cyber Guy: Leading with Credibility Outside Your Area of Expertise

I had just completed the first 28 years of my Air Force career and achieved a modicum of success as a fighter pilot, culminating with my fourth and largest command, the 18th Wing on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. That’s when I got the call: “Williams, you are going to be the Director of Communications at U.S. Pacific Command.” And just like that, I went from a job where I had extremely deep experience and credibility to one where I could barely speak the language and my subordinates greeted me with great skepticism as well as preconceived notions about what to expect from a “fly-boy” coming into their IT world. As it turned out, everything I knew about leading and managing crossed over directly to my new job but it took a lot of work to become an accepted and valued member of my new team. As cyber security moves steadily from being a stovepipe function of the IT department to a key element of the overall business organization, it is becoming increasingly common to see managers with little technical, much less cyber background, being put into positions of responsibility for cyber risk. This presentation is geared toward leaders and managers at all levels and focuses on Major General (Ret) Brett Williams’s lessons learned from leading a variety of large, diverse organizations

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