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The Stack Archive

US army and British intelligence launch new drives for cyber-warriors

Wed 18 Feb 2015

On February 10th both the US army and the British intelligence and security organisation GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) launched new initiatives aimed at fostering the next generation of ‘cyber-warriors’ via universities.

On Capitol Hill Chief of Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley signed ‘Cyber P3’ – a ‘cyber private public partnership’ between the United States Army Reserve (USAR), six American universities, and 11 employers. Under the Cyber P3 scheme reservists will be able to attend one of the participating universities in order to obtain advanced foundational cyber skills, with the opportunity to try for equivalency in a cyber Military Occupational Specialty Qualification – allowing them to become cyber-specialists within the US military.

On the same day in the UK GCHQ launched its Insiders Summer School scheme, wherein it is offering computer science students in their first or second year a paid ten-week intensive cyber-training course in Cheltenham, running from 6th July until 11th September.

Of the American scheme, Talley says: “The demand for these cybersecurity professionals and cyber-experienced Soldiers far outpaces the current inventory,” and goes on to note that the Government Accountability Office estimates a shortfall of 40,000 cyber security operatives.

Talley emphasised the job-security angle of government cyber-warfare for reservists: “The most effective way to maintain your competency and technical skills in this space is being employed as a cybersecurity professional,”

The participating employers in Cyber P3 will help the universities structure their educational framework towards suitable candidates, and the scheme will also be reaching out to high schools.

Cyber P3 program manager Lt. Col. Scott Nelson noted: “Just as [employers] have this significant shortage, and the government has a significant shortage – the military has a significant shortage as well…The missions are outstripping the capability that the Army has,”

The six universities involved are Norwich University in Vermont (the oldest military college in the United States), the University of Washington, George Mason University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Drexel University and the University of Colorado.

Back in the UK, students wanting to receive the £2,500 that GCHQ is offering to attend the Insiders summer school will need, among other things, ‘advanced coding skills, as well as the ability and tenacity to solve a variety of complex problems.’

The Cheltenham summer programme will give participants a chance to work both with established and legacy systems, as well as the most up-to-date mobile technologies, and will conclude with a ‘live’ exercise where the students will demonstrate their honed talents.

A spokesperson said that the students will have a unique opportunity to see how GCHQ utilises modern technologies, and touches also on the obvious sub-text of the course’s place as a ten-week trial for potential roles: “They’ll not only enhance their cyber knowledge, but completing the programme will also look good on their CV and, if they prove their abilities, we may even offer them a job interview,”. Candidates can apply here, until 9th March.

Tim Polk, assistant director for cybersecurity in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, admitted last November that exact figures for cyber-specialists required and the specific roles that they need to fill can be difficult to pin down. “We always hear from agencies that they need more cybersecurity people,” he said. “but they have a very difficult time pointing to what those positions are,”.

It’s a confusing issue which is being addressed by the Homeland Security Boots On the Ground Act, which would obligate the Department of Homeland Security to clarify cyber-workers’ roles. A DHS project, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS), also seeks to classify the needs of government in the field.

But it seems that government, the military and the private sector may have to fight over the best candidates – or any.

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