The need for evolving technical capabilities of defense systems and complex networks is increasingly important to protect national security, but the cybersecurity workforce to develop these emerging technologies is lacking.
Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of qualified cyber professionals, with approximately 600,000 cyber jobs available and more than 53,000 open positions in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to cyber search.
Working to close the cybersecurity workforce gap, Virginia Tech received $1.5 million to engage undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds enrolled in ROTC and other defense and security career-oriented programs.
The Griffiss Institute, which manages the Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employment for the Department of Defense, selected Virginia Tech to lead the program called the Virtual Institute for Cybersecurity Research and Advanced Training of ROTC Students (CREATORS ). Virginia Tech will partner with Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University, both minority-serving institutions.
“As a top military university, the establishment of a new Virginia Tech-led cybersecurity program builds on the strengths of our existing expertise in cybersecurity and related disciplines, but intentionally extends our reach to a variety of students that will allow us to diversify technology. talented workforce and, more specifically, the development of our nation’s defense and intelligence communities,” said Eric Paterson, executive director of the National Security Institute at Virginia Tech.
The multi-university initiative will provide students with opportunities to participate in experiential learning programs, summer internship experiences, and applied research projects to address the complex cyber environment and cultivate a diverse pool of cyber talent.
The CREATORS Virtual Institute will bring together teams of students from various universities who will learn about the challenges and technology of cyber security through a year-long project experience. The first kits will be released this fall and applications will be solicited in the coming weeks.
“The defense landscape is driven by increased computing and software-defined capabilities, wireless systems, and increased network connectivity that requires the ability to process and learn from cybersecurity data artifacts and translate cybersecurity vulnerabilities into action. with operational impact,” said Peter Beling, professor. in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Degree and associate director of the Intelligent Systems Division at the Virginia Tech Homeland Security Institute, who is also the principal investigator. “The future workforce needs to be better equipped to understand these vulnerabilities, work with them in relevant operational contexts, and leverage data to improve outcomes.”
“Although cyber security and smart defense have been the key areas to improve national technology and security, there has been a significant shortage of skilled manpower in this domain in national laboratories, industry and academia,” Jin said. -Hee Cho, Associate Professor of Computer Science. science and director of the Trustworthy Cyberspace Lab. “CREATORS will provide students with a strong knowledge of cybersecurity and defense and transdisciplinary experiences in developing innovative solutions to cyber problems.”
Cho is a co-principal investigator on this project with Ehren Hill, associate director for education and outreach at the Virginia Tech Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology. The Virginia Tech team is partnering with Professors Yen-Hung (Frank) Hu and Mary Ann Hoppa; both from Norfolk State University; and Hongyi Wu and Chunsheng Xin; both from Old Dominion University.
The establishment of the virtual institute builds on Virginia Tech’s momentum in cybersecurity education and research. Last fall, Virginia Tech announced the formation of its National Security Institute, which aspires to become the nation’s preeminent academic organization at the nexus of interdisciplinary research, technology, policy and talent development to advance national security. .
Recently, Virginia Tech received a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Defense to continue developing the Department of Defense (DoD) Military College Senior Cyber Institute (SMC2I)for the second year.
Virginia Tech also leads two major cybersecurity initiatives with unique investments by the community that provide a strong foundation of education, experience, and innovative research in cybersecurity at the university.
Virginia Tech led Commonwealth Cyber Initiative it is a highly connected network involving higher education institutions, industry, government, and economic development and non-governmental organizations that launched in 2020 with an investment of $20 million from the state. The initiative connects regional nodes across the state, each led by a higher education institution, that are designed to be dynamic centers of research, learning, and innovation tailored to their local ecosystem.
Also funded by the state of Virginia, the Virginia Cyber Range was created in July 2016 with a mission to provide cybersecurity education resources to public high schools and colleges across the state in an effort to boost the pool of qualified cybersecurity experts needed to fill tens of thousands of positions working in Virginia. Since then, the range has grown to admit 5,000 students and faculty at more than 200 high schools, community colleges, and universities in Virginia.
Additionally, Virginia Tech is a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research and Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, and an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence. The university participates in federal grant programs including the National Science Foundation Cybercorps Grant for Service and the Department of Defense’s Office of Personnel Management and Cyber Security Grant Program.
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