Cal State San Bernardino’s Cybersecurity Center has received a two-year $12 million federal grant, with a potential for an additional third year with $5 million more, in its efforts to develop a robust cybersecurity workforce in partnership with colleges and universities around the country.

Under the two-year grant from the National Center of Academic Excellence (NCAE-C), a program of the National Security Agency (NSA), the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center will continue in its designation as a Center of Academic Excellence Community National Center leading and supporting the more than 380 CAE institutions and projects focusing in three primary functions, said Tony Coulson, a professor of information and decision sciences and executive director of the Cybersecurity Center.

The functions are:

  • Provide technical and logistical support for CAE National Centers, CAE events, initiatives, activities and curriculum
  • Provide infrastructure including a portal of CAE resources for the community, geographic regions and the nation
  • Engage and facilitate strategic initiatives for the nation in the areas of research, other national centers, student and faculty development, diversity and workforce development activities to help solve the nation’s cyber workforce crisis.

Coulson said the focus as a national center “is really on collaboration. We try to get schools to all work together.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, a longtime supporter of the program and a key proponent of the grant, said the funding will be twofold, supporting and encouraging students to enter the cybersecurity field and enhancing national security efforts.

“Our region is taking critical steps towards investing in our young people and strengthening our national security,” said Aguilar. “I’ve been a proud advocate for federal funding for the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center because I know the potential of our students. I look forward to seeing them grow and thrive in our community as they prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.”

As part of the development activities and research, Coulson said the center would also expand into competitions where students at the partnering colleges and universities programs can test their skills and work readiness from challenges that include tabletop exercises to actual hacking.

“The focus of our efforts in this grant is on cyber defense, cyber research and cyber operations at educational institutions across the country. The implementation also includes an expansion of the NCAE Cybergames, a platform where students compete to defend networks and hone their cybersecurity skills aimed at beginners,” Coulson said. “The CSUSB-developed NICE Challenge (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education)  project  will also be expanded, focused on ensuring the workforce is ready. This system is being used by almost 600 colleges and universities nationwide.”

“Our goal is to solve the cybersecurity workforce deficit, which is now estimated to be 700,000,” Coulson said.

In addition, the Cybersecurity Center continues to work with a number of federal agencies – the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense – along with businesses to create state-of-the-art programs and partnerships for cybersecurity education, training, internships, jobs and most recently apprenticeships to increase the cyber workforce.

Last year, the NSA awarded the CSUSB Cybersecurity Center a $3 million grant to build up cyber talent in the state – specifically in the inland region – through a variety of approaches, including apprenticeships, and to bring more cyber employers to the area. The grant has helped fund the center’s efforts to increase the cyber workforce by encouraging students to consider careers in the cybersecurity field. The project is in partnership with the Riverside Community College District’s LAUNCH Apprenticeship Network, San Bernardino County Schools, and the company Tomorrow’s Talent.

With the increase of students in the cyber field, the project is working to increase the number of Inland Empire employers to create and increase job opportunities, Coulson said.