Langevin Co-Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging Sec. Mattis to Boost Cybersecurity Education in JROTC

Jul 10, 2017 Issues: Armed Services, Cybersecurity, Education

U.S. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), Ranking Member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, joined Subcommittee Chair Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), as well as Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and David Perdue (R-GA) of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in sending a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis urging him to direct the Military Departments to incorporate cybersecurity into the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) curricula for high school students. While the Services incorporate some elements of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in the JROTC program, cybersecurity is not a curriculum requirement.

There is a shortage of professionals working to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats and an urgent need to fill these high-skilled, good-paying jobs. The Members are urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to teach JROTC students nationwide about important cyber topics, which will increase exposure to cyber careers and ultimately strengthen the cyber workforce pipeline.

“The United States currently suffers from a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals needed to defend the nation’s economic and national security,” wrote the Members in the July 5 letter. “Given the need to inspire young people to pursue cybersecurity careers, we believe that the addition of cybersecurity to the JROTC curricula would boost student interest in this critical field.”

“The Air Force Association is committed to doing all we can to develop a cadre of American youth with the technical skills and citizenship needed to help our nation confront the very serious cyber security challenges we face,” said Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch (USAF, Ret.), National Commissioner of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Program. “That is why we created CyberPatriot, and that is why we support the Members’ efforts to include cybersecurity in JROTC curricula.

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

July 5, 2017
The Honorable James N. Mattis
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20301

 

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We write to request your support in directing the Secretaries of the Military Departments to incorporate cybersecurity into the educational curricula for Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs. As you know, our nation must enhance our capabilities in cyberspace to keep pace with increasing cyber threats. Recruiting and retaining technically skilled cybersecurity personnel is fundamental to strengthening these capabilities.

The United States currently suffers from a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals needed to defend the nation’s economic and national security. According to a Peninsula Press analysis of Department of Labor Statistics, there are over 200,000 unfilled information security jobs in the United States, and that number is expected only to grow. This shortage crosses the public and private sectors and includes the Department of Defense, which has struggled to recruit and retain skilled civilian and military personnel despite significant, concerted efforts in recent years.

In order to fill the growing skills gap, we must encourage more students to pursue cybersecurity careers. As with other career paths, students should be introduced to cybersecurity early in their education as they discover their passions and develop their expertise. The Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity final report included the following recommendation:

“Cybersecurity awareness messages should be developed and focused on children as early as preschool and throughout elementary school… this effort would also stimulate exploration of cybersecurity careers in middle school and enable preparedness for cybersecurity careers in high school.”

Current and former defense officials have also spoken of the need to instill cybersecurity awareness in young Americans at an early age, especially as it may benefit the Department of Defense and our collective national security. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2016, Admiral Mike Rogers highlighted the National Security Agency’s efforts to recruit young Americans at the high school level, in addition to those at the collegiate level, “because we realize that type of workforce that we’re looking to gain in the future is going to come from these pools, so there’s something to be gained, we believe, by interacting early with them.” In addition, General Keith Alexander testified in March 2017 that he believed cybersecurity education programs are necessary to build the cybersecurity workforce the Department of Defense needs.

We understand that the curricula for the JROTC programs vary across the services and are established by processes individualized for each service. While all of the JROTC program curricula include some components of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – and some units do participate in youth-focused competitions such as the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program – it is not clear whether any of the curricula explicitly require teaching cybersecurity awareness or similar topics to JROTC units.

Given the need to inspire young people to pursue cybersecurity careers, we believe that the addition of cybersecurity to the JROTC curricula would boost student interest in this critical field. Furthermore, as the cyber domain grows more important to the U.S. military and in the daily lives of U.S. citizens, we believe that incorporating cybersecurity into JROTC programs is consistent with the purpose of JROTC according to public law (USC 10 2031): “to instill in students in the United States secondary education institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.”

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you on this and other cybersecurity efforts in the future.