Cyber Defense Review

Necessary Audacity: A Case for a U.S. Cyber Academy

By Chris Arney | March 30, 2017

On March 21, 2017, Foreign Policy published an article by Dr. Mark Hagerott and Admiral (Ret.) James Stravridis entitled “Trump’s Big Defense Buildup Should Include a National Cyber Academy.” The authors recommended “the creation of something audaciously different but critical to winning the wars of the future: a U.S. cyber academy.” They explicitly endorse a national cyber service academy much like the US Military Academy (USMA), Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy. Their case is made from the historical perspective that service academies were formed in a time of need and crisis for the nation and its military services. The authors see a similar requirement in cyber operations in today’s unsettled world. They also advocate for a similar model of service academy recruitment with a broad-based education and 5-year commitment. The one difference would be the parent organization would be the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense as is the case for the current service academies.

I am teaching a course to cadets at USMA entitled “Networks for Cyber Operations”, and had my senior-year cadets read and discuss the Foreign Policy article in class. We had a lively discussion, where the cadets presented many ideas about the why, how, when, and what of this proposal. I hope they comment on this post so you can read some of their ideas.

 I must admit that in addition to providing needed talent and skills to the Army’s operational units, I have wanted the recent establishment of a cyber branch to give the Army culture a boost in intellectual and technical perspective. Currently, USMA can produce 15 graduates per year that enter the Cyber branch. This small cadre of officers joins with another 15 or so ROTC 2LTs to form the new entrants into the branch. We need many more new officers than this to provide the cyber security we need in the Army and to make that cultural shift in the entire service. Hagerott’s and Stravridis’ proposal provides that boost in cyber talent for the military services and the rest of government and contributes to a much-needed awakening for the national security community to the imminent cyber threat.

 I have advocated for several years that our service academies should enroll students who would serve in other branches of the government, such as the State and Energy Departments. Perhaps this new cyber service academy proposal will foster alternative ideas to educate and motivate our talented young people to prepare themselves to enter government service and make for a better and safer world.