The University of South Florida this week announced plans for a new initiative that aims to broaden the school’s focus on security solutions.
A major goal of the Global and National Security Institute will be to advise state and local governments, along with businesses, on ways to “protect essential infrastructure critical to Florida’s economy,” the university said.
The new institute will be led by Gen. Kenneth F. “Frank” McKenzie, a retired Marine Corps general and the former chief of U.S. Central Command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. McKenzie also will lead Cyber Florida, a statewide cybersecurity organization housed on USF’s Tampa campus.
The announcement comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a state budget earlier this month that included $37 million for Cyber Florida.
In an interview, McKenzie, who retired in April, joked that a month was about the longest he could go without doing anything. The new institute, he said, is poised to solve problems he’s encountered over the span of his 40-year career at the “boundary of policy and technology.”
Topics could range from the implications of artificial intelligence technology to drones.
McKenzie said he hopes to keep overhead costs of the new institute low and capitalize on existing scholarship taking place at the university in a variety of fields, from engineering to regional studies.
McKenzie said he believes academia can fill a solutions gap, and that he has the “contacts and context” to help connect faculty with people locally and internationally who can benefit from their expertise.
“There’s great demand for an organization that can think ahead and think deeply about what that means,” McKenzie said. “We have the resources at the university to fill those requirements.”
Cyber Florida has also been tasked with coming up with a vulnerability analysis for the state, developing recommendations for improvement, training state and local government employees and working with all 12 state universities.
Will Weatherford, chairperson of the USF board of trustees, said the university was “honored and blessed” to have McKenzie lead in efforts to “continue to fight an unseen enemy that is cyberthreats.”
He added that the institute could help USF achieve its goals of becoming a Top 25 school and gaining entry into the Association of American Universities, an organization of more than 60 leading research universities in the United States.