Home to the Defense Information Systems Agency, Cyber Command and a host of defense contractors focused on information assurance, the Baltimore-Washington Corridor is rapidly becoming the nation’s cybersecurity epicenter.
The growing emphasis on all things cyber has in turn become a driver for many members of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC), particularly those whose primary role is education.
Local institutions have witnessed a surge in the demand for cyber-related programs, generated not only by students but also by employers and the government sector.
One BWCC member is directly involved in the federal government’s effort to bolster its cyber experimentation capabilities.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel was awarded $24.7 million last year to develop the second phase of technologies as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) National Cyber Range program. The project represents a revolutionary approach to assessing potential technologies for the nation’s cybersecurity systems and networks.
Phase III of the Cyber Range program, scheduled to begin sometime after August, will involve completing the development of the range and building a facility to house it.
A brief survey of educational institutions with membership in the BWCC reveals the degree to which cyber is influencing their focus.
According to Betty Noble, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial and Business Excellence at Howard Community College (HCC), cybersecurity encompasses much more than just computer science at the college.
Cyber courses and programs are offered by HCC’s Business and Computer Systems Division, the Science and Technology Division, the Social Science Division, and the Continuing Education and Workforce Development divisions.
“Credit enrollment growth across the college has increased by 40% over the last five years (2005–2010),” she said, while growth in cybersecurity courses has increased by approximately 8% since 2009 and is expected to increase by 41% in the next eight years.
Cybersecurity programs at HCC have achieved the NSA 4011 Standard, which provides students with a recognizable level of excellence. “HCC is working toward the next level of standardization, the 4013 compliance, and expects to achieve this goal by October 2011,” Noble said. “The highest level of achievement in this area is becoming an Academic Center of Excellence, and we are expecting to achieve this by summer 2012.”
Aside from government needs, HCC also offers coursework to help prepare students for industry certifications in a number of different fields.
Additionally, the college was recently presented with a $10,000 scholarship from the National Anthem Celebration Scholarship Fund in conjunction with two Columbia-based cybersecurity companies, Rsignia and L2 Integrated Solutions. The scholarship will be awarded over two years, 2011 and 2012, and is intended to assist students pursuing careers in cybersecurity.
According to Kelly Koermer, dean of the School of Business, Computing and Technical Studies at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), employers are facing significant workforce voids due to lack of a qualified cyber workforce, and those voids are expected to grow.
AACC started its cyber program with nine students in 2005 and has grown to 259 majors as of Fall 2010. “Cybersecurity is the fastest growing program at the college,” Koermer observed, increasing from 577 enrollments in required technical courses in 2005 to 1,893 enrollments last fall.
The demand has led to the establishment of AACC’s CyberCenter whose mission is to develop a knowledgeable, highly skilled cybersecurity workforce to support government and industry.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $4.9 million Community-Based Job Training Grant to the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., AACC and their partners for the Pathways to Security Careers Consortium initiative.
“The goal is to train 1,000 workers,” Koermer said. “Less than one year into the grant, AACC alone has already enrolled 235 students.”
AACC is well ahead of the curve in many other respects. “We were the first community college in the country to map its curriculum to the NSA 4011 standards,” Koermer said. “The Department of Homeland Security and the NSA has designated AACC a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Two-Year Education.”
Government sector and private sector needs are virtually similar, with the exception of preparing cyber warriors for the Department of Defense and local defense contractors. “We are presently working with the Army to design curriculum to meet the cyber warrior’s educational needs,” Koermer said.
The demand is clear, as are the challenges to meeting demand.
“Our cyber labs are full and we are at capacity,” Koermer acknowledged. “We really can’t grow any more without building new laboratories. With the devastating and unprecedented nearly 15% cut in our funding by the Anne Arundel County Council, plans to expand labs and build more capacity are being reconsidered and growth may not be possible.”
In addition to skilled workers, there is also an emerging need for high-level managers with deep cyber knowledge.
“We recognized that two years ago and decided to take it deeper than just a bachelor’s or master’s degree,” said Dr. Vic Maconachy, chief academic officer at Capitol College. “We now offer an Information Assurance Doctorate Program with a Doctor of Science degree. It’s a hands-on field of study focused on solving problems and one that is case study-centric with a concentration on solution sets.”
Since the inception, approximately 40 students have enrolled in the online doctorate program, from across the nation and overseas as well.
The college is also starting to consider the field of cyberintelligence. “There’s not much offered in this area outside of the Department of Defense, but it’s an area that’s becoming critical to business, industry and government,” Maconachy said.
Capitol College has tailored its cyber courses to address the full spectrum of cyber needs, from hands-on administrators all the way up to the leadership level, Maconachy said, and is paying close attention to future needs that still remain largely undefined.
“Software Assurance is one example of an emergent field of concentration that’s beginning to happen, and one that we’ll soon be addressing,” he said.
Last year Capitol College used an $80,000 BRAC Higher Education Grant to construct a Cyber Battle Laboratory where cyberattacks can be simulated, detected, analyzed and defeated. In addition to providing a realistic learning environment for enrolled students, the college also has used the lab for outreach.
In January this year the college invited more than 100 middle and high school students to view the Battle Lab and learn about education and cyber career opportunities.
Undergraduate students do not necessarily need to complete a degree to enjoy the college’s benefits, Maconachy added. “We offer a plethora of certificates … that have been vital in helping students get summer jobs and internships.”
NSA and the Department of Homeland Security have designated Capitol College a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.