Norwich and Senior Military Colleges will create a program to feed a talent-hungry Defense Department cyberworkforce

Norwich University recently landed a two-year, $19.5 million grant to create a Defense Department Cyber Institute program. This is big news.

As the lead institution among the nation’s six Senior Military Colleges, Norwich will execute $4 million over two years to create a program office to develop an integrated academic infrastructure and feed a talent-hungry Defense Department cyberworkforce.

Two recent news reports outline the cybersecurity worker drought and why this Defense Department grant and project are so big for Norwich and so important for national security.

On Sept. 22, Emil Sayegh, president and CEO of Austin, Texas-based global managed cloud services provider Ntirety, wrote in Forbes online that cybercrime was exploding and cybersecurity talent was thinning as 2020 ended. Sausalito, California, research company Cybersecurity Ventures projected there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally this year, up from 1 million such positions in 2014.

Cybersecurity Ventures projected there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally this year, up from 1 million such positions in 2014.

Finding experienced cybersecurity specialists — security analysts, threat researchers, security architects, cloud security architects — is an arduous, often monthslong slog, Sayegh said.

“On top of specializations,” he wrote, “businesses must defend against threats in real-time, so they should recruit for a 24x7x365 cybersecurity team — adding a layer of difficulty to the hiring process.”

Talent paucity has bred panic, Sayegh suggested, forcing companies to push inadequately trained hires into cyberdefense’s front lines and hope that technology would close the experience gap.

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Cyberdefense industry observers hope university students, like this Norwich cadet participating in a 2014 simulation, will one day fill demand for jobs including threat researchers, security architects, security analysts and cloud security architects. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

In a Feb. 1, Forbes online article, Forbes Councils member Taavi Must joined Sayegh in deeming the cybersecurity talent dearth dire. Must wrote that cybersecurity graduates’ perspectives, and skills, are generally limited because the programs that produce them are limited.

Perspectives, and skills, are generally limited because the programs that produce them are limited.

“Most university cybersecurity programs are still largely focused on policy writing, law, privacy, etc.,” wrote Must, who’s CEO of Manassas, Virginia-based advanced cybersecurity training company RangeForce. “For many institutions, building the infrastructure required for hands-on and interactive learning is difficult.”

Some industries can get away with keeping training and tools relatively simple, Must wrote. In software development, for example, students need only laptop computers to write code and will know nearly instantly whether their work succeeds. Code works or it doesn’t. 

Cybersecurity, though, must train more broadly, Must wrote, developing people who can understand networks, commercial security tools and human adversaries.

“Understanding how different systems work together is an advantage when you’re looking for suspicious behavior,” Must wrote. “Teaching these fundamental IT skills on top of security-specific capabilities is not trivial.”

How the Defense Department grant will help

Through the Defense Department Cyber Institute program, Norwich and the other Senior Military Colleges will share expertise to build cross-institutional multidisciplinary programs that train students rigorously, experientially and immersively.

The Norwich University Applied Research Institute’s Security Situation Center gives Norwich an edge over traditional security operations centers. By complementing traditional cybersecurity courses with certification processes and giving threat-hunting crews access to cutting-edge research and data, graduates’ concept and skill development reach a higher level.

“The multidisciplinary programs created by these six Senior Military Colleges will build crucial leadership skills as well as critical cybersecurity competencies for the cybersecurity professionals who will serve the nation as DoD civilians or as military professionals,” Diane M. Janosek, the commandant and training director of the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic School, said earlier this month, when the grant was announced. “This innovative pilot is a key element in expanding the pool of eligible and certified cyber experts who will protect and defend the Nation’s national security posture.”

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