December 16, 2021

NDAA Final Language Includes Roadmap To Establish Gillibrand’s Seminal Cyber Academy

Gillibrand: “The Technological Advancement Of The 21st Century Has Made Cybersecurity One Of Our Most Important Lines Of Defense, But Right Now Too Many Parts Of The Government Don’t Have The Reinforcements They Need.”; Cyberattacks Cost the United States More Than $100 Billion Annually

U.S. Senator Gillibrand is announcing that her Cyber Workforce and Education Curricula provision was included in the final language of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The United States government is currently facing severe cyber personnel shortages and capacity gaps in cybersecurity, IT, cloud computing, and AI. Already in 2021, the number of data breaches in the United States has far outpaced 2020, and cybercrime costs the nation more than $100 billion annually. The growing number of cyberattacks across all industries and increasingly digital world underscores the need for a robust cyber workforce across all federal agencies. Senator Gillibrand’s provision in the NDAA would require that the Department of Defense (DoD) submit reports to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees that assess the establishment of a National Cyber Academy, a talent strategy to satisfy DoD’s future cyber education requirements, and DoD’s overall workforce requirement for cyberspace and information warfare.

Senator Gillibrand has proposed the creation of a Cyber Academy to address our government’s cyber and digital workforce crisis. Senator Gillibrand’s Cyber Academy is especially pertinent as the current tech workforce is quickly aging out, with just 6% of federal employees in computer science, computer engineering and IT positions under the age of 30 and many tech workers opting instead for competitive private sector positions. Modeled after existing military service academies, this first-of-its-kind establishment would be the world’s first government-funded university dedicated to training cyber and tech professionals for the civil service. This centralized vehicle for recruiting cyber and tech talent would have graduating classes of several hundred students per year, make public service more accessible, and give the United States a competitive edge on the world stage.

“The need for an effective, talented, and diverse cyber workforce for the U.S. government has never been clearer, but the workers simply aren’t there. The persistent gaps in our federal tech workforce call for bold, innovative solutions to sustainably bring in young talent, build out our digital capabilities, and maintain our strength and influence in cyberspace,” said Senator Gillibrand. “My proposal for a state-of-the-art Cyber Academy would provide civic-minded young people with a free, unparalleled postsecondary technological education and a way to serve their country outside of the military. This is the step we desperately need to take to ensure the U.S. is keeping pace on a global scale and can protect ourselves from threats.”

Senator Gillibrand’s provision in the NDAA would require that the Department of Defense submit two reports to be produced by the Secretary of Defense, acting through the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense, in consultation with Secretaries of the military departments and the head of any other organization or element of the Department the Secretary determines appropriate. These reports will be submitted to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. The first report, due by January 1, 2023, assesses the establishment of a National Cyber Academy for the purpose of educating and training civilian and military personnel for service in cyber, information, and related fields throughout the federal government. The cyber education report will include a talent strategy to satisfy future cyber education requirements for military and civilian personnel that considers acquisition personnel, accessions and recruits to the military services, cadets and midshipmen at the military service academies and enrolled in the Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, information environment and cyberspace military and civilian personnel, and non-information environment cyberspace military and civilian personnel. It will also identify appropriate locations for information warfare and cyber education for military and civilian personnel, including a potential Cyber Academy. The second report, due by January 1, 2025, will determine the overall workforce requirement of the Department for cyberspace and information warfare military personnel across the active and reserve components of the Armed Forces (other than the Coast Guard) and for civilian personnel. The cyber workforce report will consider personnel in positions securing the Department of Defense Information Network, defense agencies, field activities, and combatant commands, including current billets primarily associated with the Department of Defense Cyber Workforce Framework. The cyber workforce report would also include a talent management strategy that covers accessions, training, and education.

The Cyber Academy would borrow basic elements of the existing military service academies at West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs. In exchange for a fully-funded undergraduate degree in a digital technical field like AI, software engineering, cybersecurity, robotics, data science, computational biology, or design, students would incur an obligation to serve in corresponding digital technical roles across the federal government as civilians. Agency placement would then be determined by student preference and an annual interagency assessment of the government’s digital and cyber needs. In addition to rigorous academic coursework, students would be required to complete internships to gain practical experience and would begin applying for a security clearance midway through their undergraduate careers to expedite the job onboarding process once their degree is completed.