NDAA requires DOD to report on prospects for a ‘cyber academy’

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) outside the Senate Chambers, Dec. 6, 2021.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) outside the Senate Chambers, Dec. 6, 2021. Anna Moneymaker // Getty Images

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) says these reports could inform potential legislation to establish an academy to educate cyber workers for government modeled after military service academies.

The annual defense bill, passed this week by the Senate, included a provision to require new reports on the potential efficacy of a National Cyber Academy modeled after existing military service academies.

The idea is that such a school could be a vehicle to recruit cyber and tech talent into government, given that graduates would be obliged to a certain amount of civilian government service after finishing school. The creation of an academy was actually recommended by the National Security commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Already, the Government Accountability Office did a report probing the opinions of federal tech leaders on the capability of a digital service academy. Top tech officers told GAO that length federal hiring processes and pay issues could make it difficult to actualize on talent being produced by any such academy. 

Still, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who asked for that report and championed this provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, is pushing ahead for more information. 

“The need for an effective, talented, and diverse cyber workforce for the U.S. government has never been clearer, but the workers simply aren’t there,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “My proposal for a state-of-the-art Cyber Academy would provide civic-minded young people with a free, unparalleled postsecondary technological education and a way to serve their country outside of the military.”

The NDAA provision requires two reports by the Department of Defense to be submitted to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. These will help Gillibrand craft a bill to establish a Cyber Academy.

Gillibrand says that the school would include internship requirements in addition to early applications to the security clearance process - midway through undergraduate courses - so that the onboarding process is “expedited” once students graduate.

Potential areas of studies would include digital tech fields like software engineering, cybersecurity, robotics and data science.

The first report, due by Jan. 1, 2023, will assess the potential establishment of a National Cyber Academy. That will include a talent strategy to satisfy future cyber education requirements for military and civilian personnel, as well as potential locations for “information warfare and cyber education for military and civilian personnel, including a potential Cyber Academy.”

The second report, due by Jan. 1, 2025, is meant to center on overall workforce requirements across the DOD for cyber and information warfare military personnel across military and civilian workforces.