published Monday, September 9th, 2013

Auburn named cyber operations center of excellence

AUBURN, Ala. — The National Security Agency has designated Auburn University and three other schools as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. The others are Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; Mississippi State University; and the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Auburn officials say the program, which now has a total of eight schools, is designed to cultivate more cyber professionals in an ever-changing global environment.

An outgrowth of the President's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the program identifies institutions that have a deeply technical, interdisciplinary curriculum centered on fields such as computer science and electrical engineering. The NSA works with schools to improve education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The program also offers some participants opportunities to apply their learning or enhance their teaching in summer seminars at NSA.

"Auburn has devoted significant resources and interdisciplinary rigor across campus to expand new cyber initiatives and extensive collaboration with external organizations," said retired Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess, senior counsel for national security programs, cyber programs and military affairs at Auburn.

Steven LaFountain, an NSA technical leader, said in a statement released by Auburn that legal and ethical issues in cybersecurity are a required and critical part of the effort.

"In the application process and in all of its work with selected schools, NSA emphasizes the importance of integrity and compliance," he said in the statement. "Cyber skills are increasingly important in national defense, but it's even more important to operate as responsible citizens in the use of such skills."

The schools chosen in 2012, the program's first year, were Dakota State University in Madison, S.D.; the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.; Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.; and the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla.

Like the agency's other CAEs, those in the cyber operations program are evaluated annually. Designations are for five years and schools across the country can compete to join each year.

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