From Protecting Cyberspace to Protecting Outer Space: Former DHS Policy Analyst Cindy Martinez

Cindy+Martinez%2C+formerly+Cindy+Todorovich%2C+posed+with+former+US+Secretary+of+Homeland+Security%2C+Jeh+Johnson.+Martinez+received+an+appreciation+award+for+her+work+at+DHS.+John+F.+Kelly+succeeded+Johnson+in+2017.+The+current+acting+Secretary+of+Homeland+Security+is+Chad+Wolf.+Chad+Wolf+still+needs+to+be+confirmed+by+the+US+Senate+to+be+the+official+Secretary+of+Homeland+Security.

Cindy Martinez

Cindy Martinez, formerly Cindy Todorovich, posed with former US Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Martinez received an appreciation award for her work at DHS. John F. Kelly succeeded Johnson in 2017. The current acting Secretary of Homeland Security is Chad Wolf. Chad Wolf still needs to be confirmed by the US Senate to be the official Secretary of Homeland Security.

Cybersecurity is a defining part in our lives. To ensure the public’s safety, the Department of Homeland Security works hard everyday to help our nation with these attacks on our soil and on the internet. UP alumni Cindy Martinez, formerly Cindy Todorovich, knows this all too well. Martinez has worked at the Department of Homeland Security for five years and has even helped to make policies that were later signed by the President. She helped pass the Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence, which was issued on February 11, 2019 and aims to help the US urge the development of AI that will keep the US’s national interests in front, in doing so, will help keep the nation’s values and priorities in the AI field. Her work at the Department of Homeland Security all started due to a scholarship that she received during her years at Cal State San Bernardino (CSUSB) which would fully pay her tuition if she would work for the government after graduating from college. That was how she was able to work for the government, a job and a cause that she still promotes to this day.

The Department of Homeland Security is a fairly new federal agency. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, it’s main mission is to keep the United States safe from different threats on the web, in our borders, and in other areas. 

On the US promoting development of AI, she states, “For the past few years, the U.S. has been trying to promote normative international behavior around AI applications that value safety, privacy, and civil liberties. AI can be integrated into commercial uses, like Netflix movie recommendations, which provide positive financial results and boost the economic competitiveness of American businesses. However, it can also be used in mass surveillance programs and we’ve already witnessed some authoritarian governments using this technology to track people who vocally speak out against the government and round them up. If the ‘bad guys’ are prioritizing adversarial AI, we need to be able to know how to counter that.”

Martinez delves deeper into what AI is: “It’s been around for decades and generally refers to a computer system capable of human-level cognition. Think of it as designing some pre-programmed ‘rules.’ If the computer receives input X, it produces output Y.”

She was an intern at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before deciding to work there full-time. Martinez describes the early stages of her job and how she became passionate about it, “When I first started, I worked to promote the department’s cybersecurity tools and resources to companies and tried to translate why cybersecurity was important. Then, I went on a temporary assignment to the Secretary’s Briefing Staff where my primary role was to offer cybersecurity expertise for a daily intelligence brief that was provided to DHS senior leadership. However, when I started, ISIS was at its most influential, shifting a majority of our focus to counterterrorism.” 

In 2015, there was a mass shooting at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California. Those who were at the party worked for the Inland Empire Regional Center, an institution that helps people with disabilities. Syed Rizwan Farook, who worked at the center, and his newly-wed wife were the shooters. Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, expressed radical views online and was able to come to the United States with Farook. Farook pledged his loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State on Facebook. 

The attack in San Bernardino happened a few months into my assignment and the ability to participate in the government’s response really cemented my passion for tackling national security issues.”

— Cindy Martinez

Cindy Martinez was a part of the DHS when this happened. “The attack in San Bernardino happened a few months into my assignment and the ability to participate in the government’s response really cemented my passion for tackling national security issues.”

Martinez helped respond to this attack with her team by reporting the death toll numbers and the number of shooters to the Secretary. Then, they were able to get other information on the shooter, such as when he was radicalized, his background, and the evidence.

Her final position at DHS, however, was quite different from her previous positions. “My final position was as a policy analyst at DHS headquarters where I advised on cyber, emerging technology, and space policy. Within the White House, there’s a team that works on national security issues and will hold regular meetings with the president’s cabinet. It would be my job to write memos and prepare DHS leadership for those meetings on topics like 5G, government hacking programs, orbital debris, etc.”

Martinez details more about the meaning of space policy. “Space policy: U.S. policy as it relates to commercial, civil, or national security space activities. For example, in 2017 the White House released a directive that said ‘the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.’ This provides guidance on the federal government’s priorities and helps to influence our budgets and long-term actions. Policy is intended to analyze global threats and opportunities and provide strategic direction on how America should act with regards to certain topics (in this case, space).”

In 2019, President Donald Trump established the United States Space Force. According to the United States Space Force’s website, the USSF (United States Space Force) is the newest military branch and it focuses on promoting the US’s and their allies’ interests in space. They highlighted how space affects our daily lives. For instance, satellites in space help us use our credit cards to purchase gas at the gas station, help our GPS systems, and enable first responders to communicate with each other durings critical times.

She also elaborates on 5G. “5G is the 5th generation mobile network. (So what your smartphones are connected to in order to make calls and surf the web.) 5G is supposed to be up to 100 times faster than what we have now, and is expected to provide incredible economic potential. Some are predicting $13.2 trillion dollars of global economic output and 22.3 million new jobs created as a result.”

Cool things we’re expecting to see in the future as a result of 5G: Self driving cars and ‘smart cities.’ There may be a future where streetlights are obsolete because cars can communicate with each other and their surroundings to avoid accidents at all times. Remote medicine: doctors will be able to perform surgeries or medical procedures from thousands of miles away, using robotics.”

According to the T-mobile website, 5G will be able to expand the possibilities that 4G has. It is supposed to be faster than 4G and promote faster downloads. It will also help make society more interconnected with each other. 5G networks are able to be built on and are supported on long band waves that are able to go farther and they are able to penetrate through buildings and other obstacles that are in the way.

Martinez’s career with the DHS would not have been possible without the scholarship she earned during her college years. She stated how she found herself working at DHS, “At CSUSB, I received a federal cybersecurity scholarship titled Cybercorp: Scholarship for Service. It paid all of my tuition, living expenses, housing, books, and more, in return for a commitment to work for the government upon graduation. I had to apply during my last two years of undergrad (you can also do it for your masters or PhD). I did an internship at DHS and they hired me back full-time.”

The Cybercorp: Scholarship for Service started in the late 1990s when the United States said that they needed to address the insecurities in cybersecurity in the different infrastructures (banking, transportation, etc). In 2018, they stated that they look at the student’s prior academic record and see whether that student will succeed in getting the degree. They also look at whether the student will be suitable for government employment. That student will have to work for the government (state, local, tribal, or federal) for how many years they completed with the scholarship’s aid.

Martinez said that in order to qualify that the student needs to have a 3.0 or 3.5 GPA, write an essay about why they’re interested, do an interview, and have a pitch for the scholarship. Additionally, she stated that students must do their prerequisite classes (information technology). 

She states how she figured out how she wanted to work for DHS, “Honestly, I just wanted college paid for. I heard about the scholarship and applied. But, while I earned my degree I realized cybersecurity is a really broad field and there are a lot of opportunities to pursue. Since graduating, I’ve become much more passionate and want to continue to make a difference. I’m getting my master’s now in the study of conflict and the future of warfare. Cyber policy plays a big role in that.”

But, while I earned my degree I realized cybersecurity is a really broad field and there are a lot of opportunities to pursue. Since graduating, I’ve become much more passionate and want to continue to make a difference.”

— Cindy Martinez

Martinez details more about her studies in the Study of Conflict and Future of Warfare. “It’s not a class, it is just the general study of my program. It’s essentially looking at international relations and why countries go to war. My interests are focused on the future of warfare and what that might look like. Experts are predicting greater trends of cyber warfare and it’s important to know what that may look like so that (1) we can try to prevent it, and (2) the U.S. can form a winning strategy if deterring the attacks do not work.”

She opened her eyes to what DHS really is about when she became the assistant for the DHS Chief of Staff. Prior to working at DHS, she didn’t know much about the agency. By working there, she was able to learn that DHS focuses on many issues, such as natural disasters, terrorist threats, immigration, and so on. 

On why DHS is not efficient, she states, “If you look at the history of DHS, it was formed after 9/11 by merging 22 different federal agencies together. All those departments had different ways of doing things, different cultures, different pay scales, even different IT departments, which made it difficult to get some things done once it was unified. But, DHS was born out of an immediate need to combat terrorism and streamlining things like hiring and procurement came secondary to just making sure the homeland didn’t suffer another major attack.”

Even though DHS is not as efficient as it could be, it is still a very important federal agency. “DHS has a broad mission. I was able to see how much work goes into protecting the homeland. I was able to pass a lot of policies that either got signed by the president or higher-ups. I was able to see the finished project of my work. The mission and the people make it worthwhile to work there.”

Martinez learned many important things while she was on the job at DHS. For instance, the importance of written and oral communication skills. “The ability to communicate your ideas is essential in any job. I had to constantly write on cybersecurity topics for managers who didn’t have technical degrees and convey why we should or should not do something. Don’t forget to network and talk to your peers. There’s a lot of strength in finding good people who are at the same place you are in life and will look out for you.”

She also adds, “Ask for help if needed. Not everyone–actually very few people–know what the next step in their career should be, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out.”

Martinez highly recommends the Cybersecurity field to students who are interested. “It’ll be popular for the next 10-20 years, maybe more, so it’s a good professional investment. Even if you don’t think it’s for you, at least test it out. Do some research and see what types of jobs there are. Look into professional development groups and just ask if someone is willing to tell you what it’s like. There are a lot of people in cybersecurity and national security who want to be mentors and give back. And look into the Scholarship for Service!”

She believes that America’s military is superior due to our cybersecurity. “America’s military superiority depends on an ability to quickly do global command and control, which is enabled by better technology. We can detect threats sooner and respond more easily due to technological advances. We’re also able to continuously innovate and cut away inefficiencies. Using technology does open up vulnerabilities, but overall, it’s beneficial.”

“DHS doesn’t always have a positive reputation, but the agency is not monolithic. People who work there are dedicated to their jobs and making sure America is secure. I would encourage people to look at job openings and learn more about what it’s like to work for the government. I really valued the opportunity to participate in something greater than myself. Public service is an incredible career path.”

— Cindy Martinez

When asked if society is becoming too reliant on technology, she states, “[It] depends. When the internet was invented, it was not designed with security in mind so there is a dependency without understanding all the risks. However, it has rapidly expanded the global economy and many companies wouldn’t be where they are without the internet. What I’m more worried about is an over reliance on social media and the ability to perpetuate misinformation…”

Regarding what the general public should know about DHS, she states, “DHS doesn’t always have a positive reputation, but the agency is not monolithic. People who work there are dedicated to their jobs and making sure America is secure. I would encourage people to look at job openings and learn more about what it’s like to work for the government. I really valued the opportunity to participate in something greater than myself. Public service is an incredible career path.”

Concerning which skills someone should have in her field, she states, “A willingness to learn and expand your knowledge. I started out in cybersecurity, but wound up working on space policy and artificial intelligence. Don’t be afraid to explore new areas. Writing was a big part of my job and just being able to communicate well. Be a good person–help others and be kind. That alone will get you far.”

9:42 AM PT changed “The current Secretary of Homeland Security is Kirjsten Nielsen.” to “The current acting Secretary of Homeland Security is Chad Wolf. Chad Wolf still needs to be confirmed by the US Senate to be the official Secretary of Homeland Security.”