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What are the US Cyber Games?

2021 is the first year of the US Cyber Games. What are these games?  They are part of a global competition which will recognize cyber athletes who can work in competitive environments to successfully operate in cyberspace. The games also offer a way for fans of operational mission champions to watch cyber athletes compete and win in challenging environments and then go on to global games.

The inaugural US Cyber Games™ was created through the support of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). But we are very proud to say the real driving force behind these games is long term friend of OODA and network member Jessica Gulick of Katzcy. It is produced by PlayCyber.

We expect lots of enjoyment and entertainment from these games, but they serve a higher purpose. There is currently a talent gap of over 500,000 skilled and knowledgeable employees in the cybersecurity workforce. The US Cyber Games will help attract more talent to this career field by bringing glory to its champions.

Additionally, the games will bring together elite cyber athletes, coaches, and industry leaders to help scout and train and recognize a US Cyber Team to represent the United States at the International Cyber Security Challenge.

OODA Loop asked US Cyber Games Commissioner and Katzcy CEO Jessica Gulick what motivated her to create the US Cyber Games in conjunction with NICE and NIST. Her context: “The goal of creating the US Cyber Games is to help develop the next generation of a diverse and well-qualified community of cybersecurity talent. While education, certification, and apprenticeship are important for training, games provide a safe and legal place to practice offensive and defensive techniques in a real-world environment with others. Games also help us build a better workforce and introduce individuals to the field who might not otherwise have access to cybersecurity opportunities.”

The Athletes


As part of the selection process to field the team, over 500 athletes from 43 states competed in the US Cyber Open. The top 3 athletes who competed in the Open were John Johnson, Cameron Whitehead, and Sears Schulz. The leaderboard of the top 50 finishers is now available on the U.S. Cyber Games website.

The Coaches

Dr. TJ O’Connor is the Head Coach of the U.S. Cyber Team. Dr. O’Connor is the IoT S&P Lab Director and Cybersecurity Program Chair at Florida Tech. His previous competitions include the NSA Cyber Defense Exercise (CDX) and Red Team for SECCDC & NECCDC. Coach O’Connor is a Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, serving as the Communications Officer at the Battalion, Group, Directorate, and Headquarters level for the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Dr. O’Conner is joined by Dr. Dane Brown, the Red vs. Blue Coach for The U.S. Cyber Team. Dr. Brown is an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) where is the Coach of the USNA Cyber Security Team. He is also the Curriculum Committee Chair of the Cyber Science Department at the USNA. Coach Brown’s Cyber Tours include U.S. Cyber Command U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Joint Cyber Center

The coaching staff is rounded out by Jasmine Jackson, the Capture the Flag Coach for the U.S. Cyber Team. Ms. Jackson is a Senior Application Security Engineer at The Walt Disney Studios.  Coach Jackson has taught at Infosec Institute, Drexel University (teaching Mobile Security), Cybrary, and the SANS Institute.

Senior Tech Mentors for the team are Suzanna Schmeelk and Bryson Payne.

The Program

The 50 elite players from the US Cyber Combine Invitational comes down to the final 20 athletes who will be announced as members of the first U.S. Cyber Team on Draft Day.

The U.S Cyber Games program has been running since April 2021 and consist of the US Cyber Open, the US Cyber Combine Invitational, and US Cyber Draft Day, where the Team of 20 athletes will be chosen from the US Cyber Combine with the selection of the first-ever US Cyber Team™ to represent the United States at the inaugural global competition: The 2021 International Cyber Security Challenge (ICSC) held in Athens, Greece in June 2022.    

According to the event founders and organizers:  “Athletes will be evaluated based on application, aptitude, interview, effort, attitude, and skill. The final US Cyber Team will be purposely diverse bringing different backgrounds and skills to play key roles on the team.” 

“The US Cyber Games Draft Day will provide viewers a look into what these athletes have been doing over the past few months and what they will be undertaking to prepare for the inaugural International Cybersecurity Challenge (ICC) taking place in June 2022 in Athens, Greece.” 

Where and When?

The first-ever US Cyber Team™ Draft Day will happen live from Las Vegas – with streaming on TikTok and Twitch -on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at 2:00 PM EST/11:00 AM PST.

Upcoming Events:

June 14-17, 2022: International Cybersecurity Competition (ICC) in Athens, Greece

Previous Cyber Games, Events, and Activities:

May 28, 2021: Virtual Summit Kick-off

May 28–June 11: US Cyber Open CTF (2 weeks)
The first phase of the inaugural US Cyber Games™ was completed. Nearly 700 athletes registered for the US Cyber Open Capture-the-Flag event.

End of June: Invite Top 60 to Cyber Combine

July 9–September 3: US Cyber Combine Invitational (competitions/training/interviews/testing)
The coaching team was introduced and 60 Combine athletes were announced.  Throughout September, the Coaching Team and Advisory Board met to select the Top 20 cyber athletes who will be invited to join the first US Cyber Team.

The Games are sponsored by Leidos, CompTIA, BAE Systems and AWS, Resolvn, Resecurity, and Synack. Partners include Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu, U.S. Cyber Range, National Security Agency, National Cyber Security Alliance, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Information Systems Security Association, ITSP, OODA Loop, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) International,  The CyberWire, and Cyberseek.

To learn more about the games, see US Cyber Games.  To reserve your place for Draft Day, go to US Cyber Games Draft.

Additional Links about and coverage of the US Cyber Games: 

Introducing the US Cyber Games | NIST

US Cyber Games and TikTok turn cybersecurity into an esport

US CyberGames 2021 Coverage | Road to Athens

TikTok kicks off partnership to help the first US Cyber Team compete on the world stage | TikTok Newsroom

Cyber Athletes Compete to Form US Cyber Team

Additional Resources:

Cybersecurity Sensemaking: Strategic intelligence to inform your decisionmaking

The OODA leadership and analysts have decades of experience in understanding and mitigating cybersecurity threats and apply this real world practitioner knowledge in our research and reporting. This page on the site is a repository of the best of our actionable research as well as a news stream of our daily reporting on cybersecurity threats and mitigation measures. See: Cybersecurity Sensemaking

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.