Cal State San Bernardino is the first university to join a new program by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Command System (SSC) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) designed to grow the cybersecurity workforce to build stronger, more flexible and secure space systems.

In a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week, CSUSB formally joined the Cyber Halo Innovation Research Program (CHIRP), which will work to bring together government, industry, and colleges and universities to provide students a direct two-year pathway to a cybersecurity career at SSC or their industry partners.

CSUSB will coordinate a summer institute for its students in the program, said Vincent Nestler, an assistant professor in the CSUSB Department of Information and Decision Sciences and director of the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center, whose mission is to provide an exceptional education for the next generation of cybersecurity leaders for the inland region and the nation.

“We are educating students to help solve the cybersecurity problems of tomorrow, and many of those problems will be in space,” said Nestler. “This is an amazing opportunity for our region, and our students can dream even bigger. “

The need to dramatically increase the cyber workforce has been known for a number of years as officials estimate there are an estimated open 600,000 cybersecurity jobs, said Tony Coulson, a professor of Information and Decision Sciences and executive director of the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center.

The labor shortage is especially crucial in space-based technologies ranging from communication system satellites to satellites that facilitate military operations through global positioning systems. The shortage of cyber workers leaves vital digital systems susceptible to attacks.

“There is an urgent need for professionals with the specialized expertise to protect our mission-critical, space-borne assets from cyber threats by adversaries,” said Col. Jennifer Krolikowski-Stamer, Space Systems Command chief information officer. “Through this collaboration, we hope to drive innovation and grow a diverse pipeline of talent in cybersecurity for Space Systems Command and beyond.”

Samuel Sudhakar, CIO and Vice President, Information Technology Services, California State University, San Bernardino, Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, and Evangelina Shreeve
L to R: Samuel Sudhakar, CSUSB CIO and vice president for Information Technology Services, Col. Jennifer Krolikowski-Stamer, and Evangelina Shreeve


CHIRP focuses on partnering with Minority-Serving Institutions that have a proven track record of preparing a diverse population of students for cybersecurity and computer science careers.

Evangelina Shreeve, director of PNNL’s Office of STEM Education, said the partnership “builds on the strengths of PNNL’s cybersecurity researchers and STEM education professionals, and the partnership with CSUSB means we will serve students who have been underrepresented in STEM fields.”

CSUSB has an extensive history of working with government agencies, private industry and other colleges and universities to create educational opportunities in cyber education for students to increase the cyber workforce. The CSUSB Cybersecurity Center is the leader in developing applied and innovative education in cybersecurity that provides superior preparation for student success.

Last year, the Cybersecurity Center was awarded a $3 million National Security Agency (NSA) grant to build up cyber talent in California – specifically in the inland region – to encourage students to consider careers in the cybersecurity field through a variety of approaches, including apprenticeships, and to bring more cyber employers to the area.

The CSUSB Cybersecurity Center is designated as a Cybersecurity Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the NSA since 2008. In 2020, the center was named the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C) Community National Center by the NSA, which selected the center for a $10.5 million grant and directed the university to be a leader of the agency’s core workforce development initiative, the Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cybersecurity Community.

Students selected for CHIRP will receive a Space Cyber Research Scholarship and commit to working at SSC or a selected industry partner, such as PNNL, after receiving their degree. CHIRP students will receive two years of intensive training specifically designed to equip them for careers protecting the nation’s vital space-based technologies from cyber threats.

Throughout the program, the students will work closely with mentors from PNNL, SSC, and industry on space-related cybersecurity research projects, using tools and techniques that apply directly to the types of challenges they will face in their future careers.  

The program includes a research-focused internship in industry and a one-week professional development experience at PNNL, where students conduct realistic cyber experiments in laboratory spaces, such as the  CyberNet Testbed and the Internet of Things Common Operating Environment

Cybersecurity specialists master and perform various security measures implemented to protect an organization’s computer systems and networks. They monitor, analyze and fix potential system breaches that may be exploited by cyber criminals. Cybersecurity specialists also research trends in tech-based security to stay one step ahead of potential attackers and their tactics.

Learn more about the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center at its website.

Tony Coulson, Professor, Information & Decision Sciences, California State University, San Bernardino, and Col. Jennifer Krolikowski
L to R: Tony Coulson, CSUSB professor of information & decision sciences and Col. Jennifer Krolikowski-Stamer