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NDAA'S Cybersecurity Scholarship For Service: A Step in the Right Direction

Earlier this month, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed the Markup of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, and the bill will now head to the Senate floor for consideration. The FY2023 version of the annual defense policy bill features dozens of cybersecurity and tech-related policies. Still, there's one that constitutes one of the most consequential legislative provisions in modern times: the creation of the Department of Defense Cyber and Digital Service Academy. The Academy would function as a scholarship-for-service program partnered with universities and colleges in the United States; it would grant scholarships to students who agree to meet a Department of Defense (DoD) service requirement after graduation.

As underlined in our Addressing the Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage publication, there's a shortage of about 36,000 public-sector cyber jobs across federal, state, and local governments, seriously undermining the United States' ability to defend its people, infrastructure, and intellectual property. Moreover, the current cyber workforce is neither large nor diverse enough to meet the country's critical needs. This shortage puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage in developing the substantial number of cybersecurity skills needed to compete and defend itself from the impending threat of cyberattacks from adversaries such as Russia.

We believe that cybersecurity is, without a doubt, the United States' most important line of defense, but the country is lacking the human capital it needs. The establishment of the DoD Digital Service Academy would help close this widening skills gap by training the next generation of cybersecurity and technology professionals and creating a new pipeline to cybersecurity careers in government. The scholarships would also help diversify this critical field.

As Trellix’s CEO Bryan Palma pointed out in his keynote speech at the 2022 RSA Conference, the cybersecurity industry has the opportunity to foster a home to thousands of exceptional people and create a diverse talent pipeline. The Academy would make the education cyber and digital services accessible to everyone, including non-tech students and students from underserved communities while allowing them to do soulful work and serve their country. Moreover, we are firm believers that bringing people from different genders, races, cultures, backgrounds, and views will potentiate the U.S. efforts to out-innovate and outperform its competitors and counter their cybersecurity threats.

The creation of the Department of Defense Cyber and Digital Service Academy constitutes a step in the right direction for the United States, its workforce, the cyber industry, and most importantly, the defense of its people. These efforts will bolster innovation and propel creativity throughout the federal government and empower U.S. citizens. We encourage policymakers not only to approve and enact into law this important bill but also to consider making further investments in public service announcements that promote broad-based cyber security literacy.

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