WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Armed Services Committees, and Mike Rounds (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, introduced a bill today to strengthen the cybersecurity workforce that is critical to addressing the United States’ growing cyber challenges. The DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017 would reinvigorate and modify an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields. This bill would authorize the DoD’s scholarship fund to receive $10 million for FY 2018 and would expand scholarships to students pursuing associate’s degrees at several community colleges.
“A well-trained and highly skilled cyber workforce is essential to addressing the United States’ growing cybersecurity challenges,” Kaine said. “There are good-paying jobs in Virginia and across the country in the cyber field that are going unfilled, and it’s clear we must make it easier for students to access the programs that prepare them for these roles. Expanding scholarship funds so they’re available to community college students is a commonsense change that will help put more of Virginia’s students on a path to success and support our national security needs.”
“As our reliance on technology in everyday life continues to grow, so does our threat of cyber-attacks which could significantly disrupt our economy and weaken our national security,” Rounds said. “This expanding threat underscores the need to recruit and train cybersecurity professionals. In particular, our national shortage of these experts impacts the Defense Department’s ability to accomplish its cyber missions. Our legislation strengthens a proven cybersecurity scholarship program that has amply benefited students in South Dakota and nationwide as they embarked on cybersecurity careers in support of our national security.”
In a hearing on cybersecurity last week, General Keith Alexander, former head of the U.S. Cyber Command, told Senator Kaine that this scholarship program would be an effective tool to recruit talent because future leaders will need a cybersecurity knowledge base.
The bill would require that at least 5% of scholarship funds go to 2-year program students who attend institutions designated by the NSA and DHS as Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE). The bill would also make competitive grants available to eligible schools for developing cybersecurity academic programs. Virginia CAEs eligible to apply for grants and scholarships would include: Lord Fairfax Community College, Danville Community College, Tidewater Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Marymount University, Norfolk State University, Radford University, and Virginia Tech.
“From the security of our nation to the safety of your checking account, cybersecurity is increasingly essential, and community colleges play a critical role in training the professionals the industry desperately needs. I applaud Senator Kaine and others working to create the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program of 2017. These scholarships will help individuals train at our growing list of colleges designated for the prestigious Center of Academic Excellence designation in cybersecurity and earn the necessary degrees to build our pipeline of vital cybersecurity experts,” said Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois.
“The Department of Defense Scholarship Program Act of 2017 is a strategic opportunity to catalyze community colleges, like NOVA, as a collective national infrastructure to address one of our nation’s most pressing strategic workforce issues. With student populations that include thousands of veterans, and programs designed to meet real world workplace challenges while also offering further opportunity for educational advancement, community colleges are uniquely positioned to meet the cyber workforce challenge. Senator Kaine’s initiative for reinvigorating the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program could help NOVA and colleges like us attract additional expert faculty and, most importantly, open the door to scholarship funds to support our students pursuing cybersecurity degrees. As the President of Northern Virginia Community College, I am happy to voice my strong support for The Department of Defense Scholarship Program Act of 2017,” said Northern Virginia Community College President, Dr. Scott Ralls.
Scholarship recipients are required to fulfill a service obligation by working in a cybersecurity position at DoD upon graduation.