Auburn University taps former Homeland Security official to lead cybersecurity institute

Published: September 05, 2018
Updated: September 17, 2018
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Auburn University has taken another step forward as a leader on the national stage of cybersecurity with today’s naming of globally renowned cyber expert Frank Cilluffo to direct Auburn’s Charles D. McCrary Institute.

Cilluffo, whose appointment is effective Sept. 17, previously served as an associate vice president at The George Washington University where he led a number of national security and cybersecurity policy and research initiatives. He directed the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security and, with the School of Business, launched the university’s World Executive MBA in Cybersecurity program.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Cilluffo was appointed by President George W. Bush to the newly created Office of Homeland Security. There, he was involved in a wide range of homeland security and counterterrorism strategies, policy initiatives and served as a principal advisor to Director Tom Ridge, directing the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

The McCrary Institute is focused on practical, interdisciplinary research and innovation in infrastructure and cybersecurity. Founded through a gift from the Alabama Power Foundation in 2014, the institute is tasked with developing next-generation technologies aimed at improving the security and operation of the nation’s infrastructure.

“Frank is one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on cybersecurity and homeland security, and we are excited to have someone of his caliber leading such an important endeavor,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. “The McCrary Institute has allowed Auburn University to build on the track record of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Cyber Research Center and emerge as a national leader in cybersecurity research.

“Having Frank spearhead this effort only bolsters our commitment in this vital area,” he added. “His leadership record is second to none, and his innovation and professionalism in the cybersecurity community is broadly recognized.”

Joining George Washington University in 2003, Cilluffo established the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security as a prominent nonpartisan “think and do tank” dedicated to building bridges between theory and practice to advance U.S. security.

“Auburn plays a key role in safeguarding U.S. cyber infrastructure,” said Auburn University Chief Operating Officer Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess, who retired from the U.S. Army as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. “Frank’s stature, expertise and forward-looking insight propel Auburn to the next level of national leadership.”

Prior to his White House appointment, Cilluffo spent eight years in senior policy positions with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. There, he chaired or directed numerous committees and task forces on homeland defense, counterterrorism and transnational organized crime, as well as information warfare and information assurance.

Cilluffo has publicly testified before Congress on numerous occasions, serving as a subject matter expert on policies related to counterterrorism, cyber threats, security and deterrence, weapons proliferation, organized crime, intelligence and threat assessments, emergency management, and border and transportation security. Similarly, he works with U.S. allies and organizations such as NATO and Europol. He has presented at a number of bilateral and multilateral summits, including the U.N. Security Council, on cybersecurity and counter-terrorism.

He has published extensively in academic, law, business and policy journals, as well as magazines and newspapers worldwide. His work has been published through ABC News, Foreign Policy, The Journal of International Security Affairs, The National Interest, Parameters, Politico, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Quarterly and The Washington Post. He currently serves on the editorial advisory board for Military and Strategic Affairs, and has served as an on-air consultant for CBS News and as a reviewer for a number of publications and foundations.

“I am excited to join a first-class university and high-caliber team committed to tackling some of the greatest national and economic security challenges facing our country today,” Cilluffo said. “As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, so too must our response. The time has come to move beyond ‘admiring the problem,’ toward implementing solutions.

“Auburn is poised to achieve wide-ranging impact by marshaling and mobilizing the wealth of policy, research and technology expertise that resides within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the university as a whole. By working to leverage this knowledge, the McCrary Institute will foster and formulate solutions; educate and empower the workforce of today and tomorrow; and help turn concepts into capabilities to meet the needs of both industry and government,” he added.

The McCrary Institute is named in honor of former Alabama Power Co. president and CEO Charles D. McCrary, a 1973 Auburn graduate in mechanical engineering. McCrary, who retired in 2014 after a 40-year career with Alabama Power, has served on the Auburn University Board of Trustees as an at-large member since 2004.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.