Naval Academy puts cyber in new curriculum

Andrew Phillips, Academic Dean and Provost, Naval Academy

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The DorobekINSIDER is kicking off a series talking to the leaders at the government teaching institutions.

Located in Annapolis, Md., the U.S. Naval Academy was established 166 years ago.

In that time, the academy’s mission has not changed but how it meets that mission has adapted, said Andrew Phillips, academic dean and provost, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

Cyber warfare has become a platform “on par with the major warfare platforms,” Phillips said. The academy is evolving to reflect these changing threats. Starting next fall, cybersecurity courses will be more fully integrated into the students’ curriculum, he said.

“Every midshipman, no matter what their ultimate career interests are, needs to have some foundational experience in cybersecurity,” Phillips said. “They need to have some consciousness of the risks and the threats and the ability to take some defensive measures or at least practice safe computing.”

The academy’s goal is not to entirely shift the focus to cybersecurity but to “add an element” to the coursework, Phillips said.

A smaller number of students will become cyber warfare specialists. Their major will be in technical science or engineering, but many of their courses will have a practical application to cybersecurity, Phillips said.

The Naval Academy will have worked for two years on developing cybersecurity coursework by the time it is introduced to students. Much of that preparation time was spent talking to the Navy and Marine Corps about their cybersecurity needs.

“It’s not enough to just sit at the Naval Academy and imagine what you think the armed forces should be doing. We actually have to do what they want,” Phillips said.

The typical student who graduates from the academy has 140 to 145 credit hours, about 20 credits more than other schools. The challenge with including cybersecurity in the curriculum was deciding what to take out.

Much of the coursework now is focused on science and technology, and most of the students who attend the four-year academy already come with strong backgrounds in technology. Phillips said the Naval Academy’s goal is to instill in the students a technological foundation.

“In many cases, what we’ll teach here in technology will be out of date within a decade of their time in service,” Phillip said. “So we have to make sure they have the fundamental principles, so whatever is the state of the art in 10 years, what they learned at the Naval Academy is relevant.”


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