After graduating from college, Bob Dix joined the utility industry, and shortly thereafter transitioned into the retail automobile business. After 15 years, he decided to chase his dream of serving his community as an elected official, and subsequently spent the next 12 years as a local government-elected representative. Additionally, Dix served on two different occasions as a senior staff member for the United States House of Representatives. However, more than a decade ago, he decided to join the IT sector and held executive roles at various companies before ending up Juniper Networks nearly four years ago.
TheNewNewInternet: As vice president of government affairs and critical infrastructure protection, what do you your duties entail?
Bob Dix: I have a broad range of responsibilities in my portfolio with Juniper Networks. I have responsibility for coordinating and leading our U. S. government affairs efforts including serving as our primary liaison to the executive and legislative branches of the U. S. federal government, as well as working on public policy issues with state and local governments. I am very privileged to represent Juniper in a number of leadership roles with important organizations working on critical infrastructure protection, cyber security, and advancing the collaboration between industry and government through public ““ private partnerships that seek to improve the protection, preparedness, and resiliency of the critical infrastructure on which we so heavily rely. Some of those organizations include the Industry Executive Committee of the President“™s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC); the Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security (PCIS); the Information Technology Sector Coordinating Council and IT ISAC; and the National Security Task Force of the United States Chamber of Commerce. I am also active in helping to facilitate industry ““ government collaboration in the testing of our nation“™s preparedness and resiliency through the congressionally-mandated National Level Exercise Program. As Juniper Networks is a global leader in high-performance networking and security, I advocate through thought and knowledge leadership events and activities about meeting the requirements of current and future demands for performance, reliability, scalability, security, and energy savings in high-performance networking solutions for a variety of stakeholders and constituencies.
TNNI: Can you talk about some of the challenges you“™ve met?
Dix: One of the most frustrating dynamics is that many in government remain wedded to the old way of business in terms of a ‘need to know’ approach to meeting challenges of a determined adversary. Today, we need a new paradigm and recognition that collaboration between industry and government in a new way is critical to our ability to be successful in our efforts to protect and defend critical infrastructure, as well as improve our ability to meet the growing threats in cyber space. I would suggest that one of the most frustrating challenges is the continuing failure by many in government to recognize the value of collaboration with industry in addressing the issues of critical infrastructure protection and cyber security. As you know, the prevailing majority of this nation“™s critical infrastructure is owned, operated, or controlled by the private sector. Accordingly, the paradigm absolutely must change as we are confronted by an increasingly dangerous world“¦ a paradigm that acknowledges the roles and responsibilities of the private sector in the protection, preparedness, and resiliency of our nation“™s critical infrastructure as a partner with government on behalf of our nation. The interdependencies across sectors such as IT, communications, electricity and others provide the underlying capabilities that all sectors and stakeholders, including government, rely on for their mission critical activities as well as those functions that citizens take for granted every day. In order to enhance our risk protection profile and our overall resiliency, we simply must work together to identify priorities and pursue action that will help make our nation safer and more secure while protecting privacy and civil liberties.
TNNI: Looking back at your work in IT, how has the field changed over the years?
Dix: In the early days of the information technology revolution, designers, developers, and users alike were most interested in features, functionality, performance and reliability of the products and services that entered the marketplace. No one was asking for or paying too much attention to security of networks, systems, or desktops. Some of today“™s challenge in cybersecurity is related to that dynamic as many legacy systems are still in place and delivering functionality. In recent years, even as applications and devices have become more sophisticated and more and more capabilities are available to users including the explosion in mobile applications and social media, there has been a new focus on security of products and services. The threat has evolved from script kiddies, hackers, and identity theft“¦ to more nefarious forms of criminal activity and even nation-state-sponsored attacks. Over time, even the time that I“™ve been in the business and particularly during my tour of duty working for the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress, there has been a growing attention to security and privacy as huge components of that discussion, process, and approach to the development of software, hardware, and services. I think that the speed by which the market has driven innovation, the changes in technology, the capabilities that are provided to us now and functions we can accomplish using technology, but with a focus on security and privacy as important elements of how we development and deploy those technologies.
TNNI : You talked about one of the challenges being the collaboration between the government and private sector. What are some of the ways those two could work together to strengthen cybersecurity?
Dix: Well, first there has to be a commitment to that collaboration. That will require a significant change in the paradigm as I discussed earlier in this discussion. In order to improve our cyber security posture, we simply must move away from constantly being in the response and recovery mode, and move to a model where industry and government subject matter experts work together in a trusted environment during steady state to build informed situational awareness and a common operating view of the cyber domain. We must move beyond the colloquial ‘information sharing’ to a better understanding of ‘what’ information is timely, reliable, and actionable and how government can better share threat information and how industry can improve on sharing of vulnerabilities in a trusted environment that does not jeopardize brand integrity or business viability. This is about managing risk as we all know that in the physical world or cyberspace, we are unable to protect everything all of the time. However, I am convinced that creating a joint, integrated, 24×7 public ““ private operational capability that focuses on detection, prevention, mitigation, and response in an effort to build that situational awareness and common operating view of the cyber domain is an essential tool in our toolbox of protection, preparedness, and resiliency. Such a capability would provide an opportunity to better understand conditions in a steady state, dealing with the enormous number of cyber events that occur every day, and better understand patterns and trends of network activity that may point to thresholds of escalation, allowing issuance of alerts and warnings and even recommendations for protective measures to a broad range of stakeholders. In addition, we need to continue to advance a national education and awareness effort to inform all user communities of how to better protect their IT assets. Finally, I am hoping that those members and staff on the Hill who are writing and negotiating legislative initiatives will invite the actual subject matter experts from industry to provide input to the efforts in order to avoid unintended consequences of well-intended, but ill-advised legislation. Our collective efforts must also include our role internationally. Let“™s work together to identify and agree on priorities and then pursue the necessary tools to improve our cyber security and make our nation safer and more secure.
TNNI: I read that you have won several professional awards for your contributions to the IT community. What do you think makes you a successful cyber or IT professional?
Dix: I am passionate about working to protect this nation and our ability to thrive and prosper in a global economy. I have attempted to utilize my leadership skills to drive greater collaboration between industry and government. Our nation is depending on us to get it right. However, any success is directly related to the good fortune of being part of a dedicated and talented team throughout my career in both industry and government.
TNNI: So, you don“™t want to take any personal credit?
Dix: I don“™t think that this is about any individual recognition. I think this is about what we try and do together every day to advance the cause and achieve the mission. At Juniper Networks, we invest rigorously in research and development to deliver world class, state-of-the-art products and services to the marketplace. We have a team of outstanding people who also take seriously our corporate responsibility and our role in working to improve our ability to leverage technology and communications networking and security to make a better world, as well as our role in working to improve our national, homeland, and economic security. Juniper is committed to that mission and I am just proud to be a part of the Team.
TNNI: You have been involved in the community volunteering. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Dix: I’d love to talk about that, thank you. It is my passion in life beyond my family and career. I tell people that I have the great blessing that I get to try and change the world every day in what I do in my professional career. Then, when I leave that, I get to try to change the world in what I do in my volunteer time and that is spent mostly coaching young people. Currently, I coach girls AAU travel basketball. I’m blessed to have coached some of the most talented female basketball players in this country. I get to teach kids about character and citizenship through sports and helping teach the next generation about their own set of responsibilities in their communities, so I truly am very blessed. I am also privileged to currently serve as president of the board of directors for the Virginia High School League Foundation, as well as a member of the board of trustees for Joe Gibbs’s Youth for Tomorrow, trying to help troubled young people learn more about hope and love, and what life presents them in a positive way.
TNNI: If you weren“™t in your current field, what other profession would you consider?
Dix: You know, that“™s a really good question because as I said, I“™ve transformed my career a few times. I think if I were to go back and do it all over, maybe teaching would appeal to me because I really enjoy working with young people. I enjoy teaching and coaching, I enjoy helping folks chase their dreams and achieve their goals. So that might be something I would consider if I had to do all this over again.
TNNI: What“™s something most people would be surprised to learn about you? Any unusual hobbies?
Dix: People might be surprised to learn that not only have I coached basketball, but I“™ve coached football for a long time and I“™ve coached baseball for a long time. I am probably one of the only people you will meet who has had the great experience of winning national championships at the youth level in two different sports and two different genders. I love my family, my faith, and my profession, but working with kids outside my career is really what my passion is in life. At the end of the day, I hope that when I“™m gone that somebody will know that I“™ve been here.