The U.S. Army Reserve has formed a partnership with eight U.S. colleges and more than 20 defense contractors to train and provide continuing education for reservists who will defend against cyberattacks and hold full-time jobs with the contractors.
More than 50 representatives from the schools, military and industry are meeting at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs through Wednesday to hammer out details on how the education program will work between UCCS and the seven other colleges, all of which are near Army units that focus on cyber defense.
The Cyber Private Public Partnership - also known as Cyber P3i - was formed in February when the Army Reserve, the colleges and several defense contractors signed a memorandum of understanding.
"This really puts us on the map to have an Army Reserve program operating here," said Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. "It's going to be a model nationally for the intersection between the military, academia and industry to address cyber workforce needs. It makes a lot of sense for the military to conduct cyber activities through the reserves, since cyber warriors can make far more in industry. This allows them to stay in the military and work in industry."
Improving cybersecurity has become increasingly urgent in the wake of high-profile data breaches involving retailers, entrainment giants, insurers and financial institutions. The program's goal is to boost soldiers' skills, education and training to prevent attacks on military and civilian computer networks.
Besides UCCS, the partnership includes Drexel University, George Mason University, Norwich University, the University of Alabama at Huntsville, the University of South Florida, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Washington.
Among the defense contractors in the partnership are Colorado Springs-based Boecore Inc., Calibre Systems Inc., Chevron Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Microsoft Corp., Professional Project Services Inc., Rackspace US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.
"The demand for these cyber-security professionals and cyber-experienced soldiers far outpaces the current inventory," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve, said in a news release on the partnership. "The Government Accountability Office estimates there is currently a need for 40,000 cyber-security professionals just to satisfy the government's demand. Our belief is that the Cyber P3i effort will serve as a seed to enhance these critical efforts and lessen the skilled soldiers shortage gap."
UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said all eight schools already have cybersecurity curriculum certified by the National Security Agency's Committee on National Security Systems and are using the three-day workshop to devise a common curriculum. She said parts of the program may launch in the fall semester, after the schools determine how many reservists will need to be trained - between 100 and 1,000, officials say.