Cyber Commander Presses for Math, Science Education

BALTIMORE, Oct. 20, 2011 — Ask the top U.S. cyber war­rior how to ensure the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans is able to con­front future secu­ri­ty chal­lenges and he’ll tell you: beef up their math, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy edu­ca­tion today.

Army Gen. Kei­th B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of U.S. Cyber Com­mand and direc­tor of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, is on a cam­paign to boost sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics edu­ca­tion nation­wide.

The Unit­ed States lags behind much of the world in build­ing these capa­bil­i­ties that will be essen­tial to the future nation­al secu­ri­ty frame­work, he told par­tic­i­pants today at the Inter­na­tion­al Sys­tems Secu­ri­ty Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence here.

Alexan­der rat­tled off sta­tis­tics about the per­cent­age of grad­u­ates around the world earn­ing so-called “STEM” degrees. In Chi­na, it’s 47 per­cent; in South Korea, 38 per­cent; and n Ger­many, 28 per­cent.

In the Unit­ed States, only 4 per­cent of all grad­u­ates earn STEM degrees. “We’ve got to fix that,” Alexan­der said.

Rec­og­niz­ing that today’s and tomorrow’s grad­u­ates will form the back­ground of the future U.S. secu­ri­ty work­force, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency is a part­ner in a nation­wide effort to pro­mote STEM edu­ca­tion.

In 1998, NSA estab­lished cen­ters of excel­lence to iden­ti­fy uni­ver­si­ties that pro­vide out­stand­ing infor­ma­tion assur­ance pro­grams. Today, NSA and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty co-spon­sor the Nation­al Cen­ters of Excel­lence in Infor­ma­tion Assur­ance Edu­ca­tion and CAE-Research pro­grams.

The pro­gram, which includes 118 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, aims to pro­mote high­er edu­ca­tion and research in these areas, and devel­op more pro­fes­sion­als with infor­ma­tion assur­ance exper­tise, Alexan­der explained.

Ulti­mate­ly, the goal is to reduce vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty in the Unit­ed States’ nation­al infor­ma­tion infra­struc­ture.

While call­ing these and relat­ed pro­grams a great step in the right direc­tion, Alexan­der said they’re not enough. “If we have 4 per­cent of our grad­u­at­ing class­es with STEM, per­haps we could and should be doing bet­ter,” he said.

What’s need­ed, he said, are core sci­ence pro­grams begin­ning as ear­ly as ele­men­tary school that ulti­mate­ly will ensure the nation’s long-term secu­ri­ty.

“How are we going to edu­cate, not just my grand­chil­dren, but all the oth­er kids their age?” he asked. “How do we get the Unit­ed States back on the right course for STEM? And what can we do to help push that?”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)