Cyber 9/12 Challenge: The Next-Generation of Cybersecurity Experts

John Davis


Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge at American University, sponsored by the Atlantic Council. The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is an annual cyber policy competition for students across the globe to compete in developing national security policy recommendations tackling a fictional cyber catastrophe. During the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge, teams were evaluated on their:

  • Understanding of cyber conflict policy concepts and guidance
  • Ability to identify key issues and fully respond to critical cyber conflict policy issues posed by a serious cyber-related scenario
  • Analysis of policy response alternatives, including the trade-offs involved
  • Ability to organize and provide clear and concise policy response options with supporting analysis
  • Presentation of original, creative and innovative solutions to the scenario

Each team had to do all of this in a decision document limited to two pages, as well as deliver an oral presentation – no easy task, for sure!

I had the distinct honor and true pleasure to participate in this important event in multiple ways throughout the two days, including in a panel discussion with former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Jim Miller, moderated by Jason Healey, Senior Research Scholar at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. I also had the opportunity to be a judge in the “final four” competition, awarding the Cyber 9/12 competition. Finally, I presented the Military Cyber Professionals Association’s (MCPA) “Order of Thor” medals to the best military college team, the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, which just so happened to be the winner of the Cyber 9/12 competition.

I believe that events such as this are both rare and critical to our national security and international economic competitiveness. There’s no shortage of the more technical cyber competitions, such as Capture the Flag. However, there aren’t many events that pit college teams against each other over the development and delivery of clear, precise, well thought out governmental policy options when dealing with the growing cyberthreats and challenges that we face in today’s digital age.

Kudos to the sponsors, hosts, speakers and other contributors to this world-class event, but mostly I want to thank the 39 college teams that competed. They were all magnificent, and I sincerely wish them the very best of success in something that’s of critical importance to our country and the world!

Please take a minute to check out the photos from the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge.

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