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NSA Announces UNO As Cyber Operations Center of Academic Excellence
By Admin (on 8/8/2014 @ 14:45:00, in ORSP Announcements, read 874 times)

The National Security Agency announced last week that five new schools have been selected for the NSA's National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program. The University of New Orleans is among them.

UNO has boasted an elite cyber operations program for nearly a dozen years and joins the nation's finest in receiving this top honor, University officials said. Since 2002, the University of New Orleans has been home to a cutting-edge information assurance program that has drawn national attention. The University's information assurance program is the only information assurance program in the state that has gained certifications from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Researchers have attained more than $5 million in grants and founded the Greater New Orleans Center for Information Assurance, a Board of Regents sponsored center, which boasts two state-of-the-art computer labs.

The NSA's National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations program was "designed to cultivate more U.S. cyber professionals in an increasingly demanding and ever-changing global environment," NSA officials said in a release.

Cyber security, also known as information technology security, is the science of protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction. This growing field is critical to operations in federal, state and local governments; military, corporations, financial institutions, hospitals; insurance companies; banks and other businesses that store vast amounts of information that must be kept confidential. Since 2010, the U.S. federal government alone has allotted more than $13 billion annually to cyber security.

The CAE-Cyber Operations designation is awarded annually and the NSA has created a rigorous application and screening process for selecting honored schools, officials said. Only five schools qualified as centers of excellence for the next five years and the University of New Orleans stands in elite company:

  • New York University (New York);
  • Towson University (Maryland);
  • The United States Military Academy (New York);
  • The University of Cincinnati (Ohio); and
  • The University of New Orleans (Louisiana).

The elite CAE program, which now includes a total of 13 schools, "complements the more than 100 existing centers of academic excellence in information assurance research and information assurance education - jointly overseen by NSA and the Department of Homeland Security," NSA administrators said in a release.

The Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program, an outgrowth of President Barack Obama's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), "identifies institutions that have a deeply technical, interdisciplinary curriculum centered on fields such as computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering."

Participants in the Cyber Operations Program may apply their learning or enhance their teaching in a summer internship program at NSA. Participating students and faculty members do not engage in actual U.S. government intelligence activities, administrators said. Yet the internship program offers valuable learning experience.

The agency has long worked with schools to improve education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), officials said. While many higher education institutions offer elements of cyber security, schools selected as centers of excellence meet stringent criteria and offer a "holistic" program that covers a variety of critical aspects.

Legal and ethical issues in cybersecurity are "a mandatory and vital part of becoming a CAE in Cyber Operations," said Steven LaFountain, the Dean of NSA's College of Cyber Operations.

"In the application process and in all collaboration with selected schools, the importance of integrity and compliance is always paramount," he said. "Cybersecurity technical skills are increasingly important in national defense, but it's equally important to operate within the bounds of the law and Constitution."