On Monday, April 20, 2015, Will Hurd, the US Representative for Texas’s 23rd congressional district, treated students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service to a special presentation. Ryan Crocker, dean of the Bush School, facilitated the talk. Hurd spent a majority of his time with the students fielding and answering questions about life as a Congressman, border and cyber security, and the looming threat of ISIS.
Hurd graduated from Texas A&M University in 2000 with a degree in computer science. He served as student body president of A&M in 1999 and is credited with uniting the student body in the aftermath of the Bonfire collapse. After graduation, Hurd worked as an undercover officer with the Central Intelligence Agency for nine years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. His experience in the Middle East uniquely qualifies him to speak on the developing situation involving ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“They way ISIS is leveraging social media to broadcast their message is unprecedented,” Hurd said. “They are reaching tens of millions of people per day using those channels. Currently, it is the rock star of the international terrorism world, and we have to stop them.”
When asked by a Bush School student about the most effective strategies for eliminating ISIS, Hurd said it would take a collaborative effort between the US military and Syria.
“We have to destroy ISIS within the borders of Iraq and Syria,” Hurd said. “The only way that is going to happen is through developing good local intelligence and cultivating relationships with people in the region.”
Following his stint in the CIA, Hurd joined the team at cybersecurity firm FusionX as a senior advisor. In this role, Hurd helps large manufacturers, financial institutions, major retailers, and critical infrastructure providers tackle a wide range of complex cybersecurity challenges.
“We spend a lot of time talking about securing our physical borders, but we have to secure our digital border as well,” Hurd said. “In regard to cyber attacks, micro actors are having macro impacts. And currently there’s not a grand strategy in development to talk about digital-to-digital attacks and our response.”
Borders are of particular concern to Congressman Hurd. He represents Texas’s 23rd District, which is not only the largest congressional district in Texas but also runs along a majority of the US – Mexico border. Hurd said he felt compelled to run for congressional office after being exposed to elected officials during his time in the CIA.
“I would brief members of Congress and they would ask me what the difference was between a Sunni and Shi’ite,” Hurd said. “I was shocked at the caliber of elected officials who were making decisions about these complex issues.”
Hurd took office on January 3, 2015. He is the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas and the first former CIA agent who was with the agency during the war on terrorism to be a member of Congress.
“After thirteen weeks of experience, the most surprising aspect of participating in Congress is the amount of hand-wringing that takes place before things get done,” Hurd said. “Also interesting is the amount of warmth between members of Congress – even across the aisle. Even as a freshman congressman, I’ve had congressmen come and ask me for advice based on my prior experience.”
Congressman Hurd was on campus to give the 2015 Muster speech. Held every year on April 21, Muster is a celebration of the Aggie Spirit that culminates in the Roll Call for the Absent – a recitation of all Aggies that have fallen since the last Muster roll call was read.