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25 Apr 14. In the race to attract cybersecurity experts to protect the government’s computer networks, the Department of Homeland Security has a handicap money can’t fix. Navigating the federal hiring system takes many months, which is too long in the fast-paced tech world. “Even when somebody is patriotic and wants to do their duty for the nation, if they’re really good they’re not going to wait six months to get hired,” said Mark Weatherford, the former cyber chief at DHS. After a spate of national security leaks and with cybercrime on the rise, the department is vying with the private sector and other three-letter federal agencies to hire and retain talent to secure federal networks and contain threats to American businesses and utilities. Phyllis Schneck, the former chief technology officer at security software company McAfee Inc who succeeded Weatherford in August, asked a U.S. Senate committee for help. “The hiring process is very, very difficult,” she said.Cyber experts can command higher salaries – in some cases up to six figures more – at private companies, Schneck said, but national security offers a “higher calling” and valuable experience. “People say the good talent doesn’t come because we can’t pay them,” she said. “We could actually use our mission to outdo some of those salaries they’re offered. But we have to have the flexibility and some additional competitiveness to bring them inside.” The Homeland Security Department, created after the September 11, 2001, attacks, is playing catchup with the Pentagon’s larger and more established cybersecurity operations at Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. Not only does DHS lack the enhanced hiring powers of its military counterpart and the agility private companies offer, but the rigid bureaucracy of the 240,000-employee agency can foster an inside-the-box culture. “There’s a lot of really smart, scary cybersecurity professionals out there who also happen to have pink hair and tattoos,” said Weatherford. But you won’t find them at DHS, which also is averse to hiring cyber experts without a college degree, he said. “Some of the smartest and most talented people I know in this business don’t have a degree,” said Weatherford, who left the agency a year ago for the Chertoff Group consulting firm, founded by a previous DHS secretary, Michael Chertoff. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who took office in December, has promised to get personally involved in recruiting and make “new hiring and pay flexibility to recruit cybersecurity talent” a legislative goal. (Source: Reuters)

01 Apr 14. The ability to link human brains to machines, create new life forms and build Star Trek-style disease detectors will be the focus of a new Defense Department office soon. The new office, named the Biological Technology Office, or BTO, will serve as a clearinghouse for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, programs into brain research, synthetic biology and epidemiology. The office will cover everything from brewing up tomorrow’s bioweapon detectors and connecting humans to computers to designing entirely new types of super-strong living materials that could form the basis of future devices. Here are the key areas in more detail. The human brain is often called the most complex object in the known universe, composed of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapse connections. As a computer, it performs 10,000 trillion operations per second. That’s about one third as fast as the Chinese Tianhe-2 Super computer, which can perform 33,860 trillion calculations per second. But the human brain does it’s calculating with just 20 watts of power. Tianhe-2 needs 24 million watts. In the last two decades, our understanding of the human brain has advanced tremendously through functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, magnetoenceplograhy, and high-reso

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