CAE-CD: Creating the Next Generation of Cyber Defenders

CYRIN Newsletter

CAE-CD: Creating the Next Generation of Cyber Defenders

How do you generate a pipeline of talented people with the best possible cybersecurity training, who are prepared and ready to robustly defend government, commercial institutions, and corporate America? You create the Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program.

Jointly sponsored by The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the CAE-CD program is in its 21st year. The program continues to grow with the stated goal of reducing the vulnerability of America’s national information infrastructure “by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise.” In its current incantation CAE has created two possible program designations:

DHS and NSA are looking for additional colleges and universities “interested in advancing the study of cybersecurity in a national effort to defend US government, business, and infrastructure sectors.” There are currently more than 300 top colleges and universities across 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico designated as CAEs in cyber defense. (For a map detailing participating institutions, click here.)

One of the exciting parts of the program is its broad outreach, so that any number of two-year and four-year schools can participate. For example, Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska is a CAE-CD school. Bismarck State in North Dakota is also a CAE-CD school—and their Cybersecurity program boasts a 95 percent pass rate for students taking the TestOut Security Pro Certification Exam, well above the national average of 66 percent. Schools that previously didn’t have a strong identification with cyber security training, like the University of Nevada, Reno, have also earned CAE-CD designation. And according to a recent article in Nevada Today, the University’s Cybersecurity Center has acted like a magnet for interested parties and agencies, both within the University and throughout the larger cybersecurity community. In that article The Center’s Director, Shamik Sengupta, stressed how the Cybersecurity Center acts as an umbrella organization to bring diverse faculty elements together. Sengupta said “We are not just one or two disciplines. We are truly multidisciplinary. Our members come from eight different disciplines and at this time include more than 30 faculty members.”

By having such a broad impact across the country and with such diverse schools, CAE-CD not only helps far-flung university programs it also helps the private sector, spreading the expertise around the country, rather than concentrating a talent pool in the expected cities or states. As reported by the NSA, “All regionally accredited two-year, four-year, and graduate level institutions in the United States are eligible to apply to become a CAE-CD school,” and when they qualify, these institutions “receive formal recognition from the U.S. Government for participating in the program.” Though the NSA and DHS “do not provide funding to CAE schools,” other funding opportunities are available from other sources, for example, the National Science Foundation.

In an introduction to a celebration of twenty years of the CAE-CD program, Diane M. Janosek, Commandant of the NSA's National Cryptologic School, noted that starting in 1999 the program has grown from seven institutions to 312. Janosek went on to congratulate these institutions for educating our nation’s cyber first responders, an essential role in a world that relies so heavily, if not almost exclusively, on cyber technology. The program’s intent, she wrote, is “to contribute to the growing demand for cybersecurity expertise in the intelligence community workforce.” Janosek highlighted the urgent need “for qualified, skilled educators, who are the keys that unlock the door to a skilled cyber workforce.” She acknowledged the “shortage of qualified educators.” Just as the need for cybersecurity professionals is growing, “the population of students continuing in cybersecurity to the doctoral or post-doctoral levels is shrinking,” limiting the number of those who can “serve in the academic environment to teach.” An urgent aspect of the program is bridging this gap.

The CAE-CD program is important for the government and it’s also important for colleges and universities. Students at top schools are receiving excellent cyber security training through the program—and so are students at schools that might be struggling. It’s rare to find a program that can strengthen security in the nation while also strengthening educational institutions—and rendering their graduates more employable in sustaining jobs and industries.

It’s also a boon to industry, contributing to the diverse pool of students and schools that might not otherwise have been able to offer such training to attract both excellent students and additional sources of funding. This training program provides a real fundamental source of training excellence as America moves to strengthen its core cyber resources for the 21st century.

CYRIN has been working with a number of CAE-CD schools and universities as the fundamental shift to remote, online learning and tools has begun. And we know companies need to train their workers onsite in a way that matches their specific cybersecurity needs and schedules. See how CYRIN uses a virtual environment to help you train, teach and educate for the new reality in the 21st century.

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