Naval Academy to add lesson on cyberwarfare

ANNAPOLIS | U.S. Naval Academy officials said Monday that they were exploring ways of working knowledge about cyberwarfare into the core curriculum for all students because of the rising significance of cybersecurity.

Right now, the academy offers some elective courses, classes mostly taken by computer science and information technology majors. But unlike the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Annapolis school does not even have a club for students interested in the field.

“On a bunch of different levels, in terms of opening up to cyberwarfare, outside of the computer science and IT department, we’re actually pretty behind,” Midshipman Chris Wheeler, a senior studying computer science and IT, told members of the academy’s board of visitors. He was responding to a board member’s question about how the academy compares to the other schools.

Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, the academy’s superintendent, said the Navy overall has put a lot of effort into cybersecurity even though the academy has fallen behind. He said he expects the academy “to catch up very quickly.”

“Right now, it’s a couple handfuls of people going into that versus 125 going into submarines and almost 400 in aviation,” Vice Adm. Fowler told the board. “But we expect this to continue to grow rapidly based on what the Navy needs, and we want to be a big part of that.”

Andrew Phillips, the academy’s chief academic officer, said the school is hoping to increase internship opportunities at the National Security Agency, which isn’t far from the academy in the D.C. suburbs. He also said the school was considering establishing a club. The Naval Academy also participates in a national competition on cyberdefense.

School officials have reached out to Mississippi State University and professor Ray Vaughn, a retired Army colonel who directs the university’s Center for Computer Security Research, to get ideas for developing a program, Mr. Phillips said.

“If you were going to send a student to a university right now to get educated in information warfare at the undergraduate level, Mississippi State would be one of the two places you would pick,” Mr. Phillips said, noting the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma also excels in the field.

While the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy have had information technology requirements for more than a decade, the Naval Academy “sort of walked away from that back in the early nineties,” Mr. Phillips said.

“With the pressure to reduce the size of the curriculum because of time demands on midshipmen, we gave up a computing course that was in the core for that era,” Mr. Phillips said in an interview. “But now the conversation is: ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t have done that.’ ”

Mr. Phillips said he hoped to have some stage of implementation of broader cybersecurity training within a year. He said it could take an additional year to actually change the core curriculum at the school.

Meanwhile, the Naval Academy set a record for applications for the class of 2014. About 16,320 students have applied for about 1,400 positions so far, and students can apply until the end of January.

The Naval Academy also has had a record-breaking year for the number of minority applicants, about 4,920, up from 4,384 last year.

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