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40 under 40: Master Sgt. Daniel Simpson, U.S. Air Force

40 under 40: Master Sgt. Daniel Simpson, U.S. Air Force

40 under 40: Master Sgt. Daniel Simpson, U.S. Air Force

YARMOUTH, Maine—While stationed at Kleine Brogel AB, Belgium, Master Sgt. Daniel Simpson ensures that U.S. Air Force cybersecurity operations on the European air base are performing at the highest level.

Simpson, 35, serves as Cyber Operations and Planning Superintendent at Kleine Brogel, home of the Belgian Air Force 10th Wing Tactical and the 701st Munitions Support Squadron, located in the province of Limburg, Belgium.

As the Superintendent, Simpson is the senior enlisted cyber leader for Kleine Brogel’s premier cyberspace and communication support, which consists of 18 enlisted military members across four different Air Force cyber specialties.

“I am responsible for overseeing the sustainment, assurance, and security of world-class cyberspace capabilities and four Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems across multi-domain environments,” he explained. “These systems support the site’s $6 billion global strike mission capability and are valued at $250 million. In addition to my Superintendent role, I serve as the Communications Security (COMSEC) Manager for the site’s numbered COMSEC account which is valued at approximately $1.5 million.”

New Challenges

Simpson noted that technology was a major factor in deciding to pursue a career in the security industry.

“Growing up, I was fascinated with technology and with the idea of what opportunities technology could potentially bring to my future,” he noted. “I joined the military at the age of 18, and within the first six months of my enlistment, I found myself being thrown into the world of security as a network security technician. From this moment forward, my Air Force career has been centered around security as each new assignment brought on newer challenges and opportunities to enhance my skill set.”

He added that the daily challenges of his job inspire him to remain in the industry.

“I think the main thing that inspired me to stay within the security industry was the challenge that this arena brings to the forefront every day, whether that is cultural challenges, system security challenges, end user challenges or just overall cyber resilience challenges,” Simpson noted. “After 17 years in security, I have found this to be my passion and one I continue to pursue every opportunity I get.”

Alignment with Business Strategy

The global COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape that everyone was comfortable with, and that includes the security industry, Simpson noted.

“I feel that due to this drastic change in our society, a lot of organizations and business ended up shifting to remote work reactively, which brought on major implications to the world of security,” he said. “Because of this shift and trend, we are seeing more organizations jump on cloud migrations, better IT procurement and investments to ensure business operations continue to be executed. The job for security is to align itself with the business strategy and ensure it focuses on value delivery, as opposed to being a hindrance or roadblock.”

Another trend, while not new in nature, that is getting a lot of attention lately is ransomware, according to Simpson.

“Over the last few years, ransomware has grown to be a more common organization threat, and it has continued to evolve,” he explained. “The organization and economic blow that can be taken from these types of attacks can be expensive and extremely hard to recover from. The techniques that cyber criminals utilize today have become more sophisticated, which prompts security teams to do their best to stay in front of.”

User-Behavior Analytics and Cloud Technologies

Simpson believes that one of the most fascinating security technologies out there right now is user-behavior analytics.

“This technology has become widely utilized to develop more advanced cyber security technologies that help determine patterns across systems, devices and networks to identify emerging, potential and real-time cyber threats and actors,” he explained. “This technology can assist organizations with blind sports in the overall security of their enterprise. Having better visibility into these types of activities is vital to managing risk for the enterprise.”

Another technology, while not new in nature, is the utilization of cloud technologies.

“More organizations have jumped on the cloud bandwagon and pushed some, if not all, of their operations to the cloud,” Simpson said. “Virtualized security hardware and capabilities such as firewalls and IDSs/IPSs [Intrusion Detection Systems/Intrusion Prevention Systems] have provided additional methods to enhance the organizations’ security posture.

“Additionally, utilizing cloud capabilities and services has allowed opportunities for security teams to remove some non-core processes from their day-to-day operations and pushed a stronger focus to protect the organizations’ ‘crown jewels.’”

Growth and Change

During the unpredictable times we have been going through as a result of the pandemic, continuing one’s personal and professional growth is extremely important, Simpson stressed.

“Finding opportunities to learn and make yourself and your teams more well-rounded creates opportunities to network with others and grow connections,” he said. “I always tell members on my team to figure out what their passion is and pursue it regardless of what others think. Once that passion is found, it triggers efforts that can be unmatched by others, and members will give 100 percent to everything they do.”

Being adaptive to change and enabling change to support the business is also essential.

“People across most organizations tend to get stuck in their ways or live with the mentality of ‘this is how we have always done this,’” Simpson said. “Embracing change enables organizations to become more mature with their processes and capabilities with the end goal of continual business optimization.”

Looking ahead, Simpson said he is “excited” to see how the security industry continues to morph and evolve to meet current and emerging challenges.

“The threat landscape changes often, and organizations need to continue to evolve their strategies to meet the demands of tomorrow,” he noted. “We often hear about the cyber skills shortage and organizations needing more people to take care of operations, but I feel over the next 10 years or so, we will see our industry grow, especially as new operations and capabilities are born and become more focused.”

Development and Investment

Simpson noted that the security arena is “interesting” and has become a more intriguing entity that professionals from different backgrounds and experiences have moved into because of how intertwined it is.

In order to get more talented, diverse young people involved in security, he explained that “Deliberately developing and investing into each member is critical to not only their professional and personal growth but also their retention. There needs to be a balance between the members’ needs and wants and those of the organization, and both members and organizations need to remain flexible and adaptive to these opportunities.” 

Simpson added, “Members want to feel that they as an employee and their contributes are valued and a part of the team. They want to be heard and have a voice in this industry to push it and their organizations to new levels. This is where organizations and its leaders need to embrace the experiences and talent that members bring to the table and capitalize on the passions people have.”


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