NSA announces new Cyber Operations program

From the desk of the NSA, a new National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) has been formed:

The CAE-Cyber Operations program is intended to be a deeply technical, inter-disciplinary, higher education program firmly grounded in the computer science (CS), computer engineering (CE), and/or electrical engineering (EE) disciplines, with extensive opportunities for hands-on applications via labs/exercises.

“Extensive opportunities for hands-on” is perhaps a subtle way of saying the U.S. is a little behind in its “collection, exploitation, and response” work. Apparently the U.S. Government is having a hard time finding talent.

DHS with great fanfare announced in 2009 that it would hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts. At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Philip R. Reitinger, deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, admitted that the department has fallen far short, and has only brought on some 260 new personnel. The new goal is 400 by October 2012. This comes at a time when the White House is giving more responsibility to DHS to protect computer networks in not only the civilian departments, but in the private sector as well.

If you think that it is nice of the U.S. Government to train students to fill the gap, you would not be mistaken:

The program is in support of the President’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE)

The NSA program to promote information assurance and cybersecurity was started in 2004, yet there are only 145 CAE (3% of institutions). Almost a dozen states in the U.S. still do not yet have even one CAE.

Aside from the scope of the project there are is the question of effect. Will boosting numbers of CS/CE/EE move the dial for national security on its own? We repeatedly see that human behavior is the source and solution of serious risk. What will the NSA do about training students for the soft power element of smart power?

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