HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The years 2020 and 2021 broke records for data lost due to cyber breaches, and by 2025 cybercrime is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems — such as water treatment facilities or oil pumping stations — were up more than 350% in 2021, while the amount of unfilled cyber jobs has grown by 350% since 2019.
“It’s a dangerous world out there in cybersecurity,” said Maj. Gen. John Epperly, deputy commanding general, Army National Guard, Army Futures Command.
Enter the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Representatives from the Army, academia and industry celebrated the kickoff of the Army JROTC Cyber Pilot Program on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville April 26-27. Eleven schools from across the nation were selected to participate in the brand-new program, which is designed to bridge the workforce gap in cybersecurity while motivating cadets to be better citizens and inspire interest in cybersecurity career fields.
“To protect our nation, we need a robust workforce that’s trained in emerging cyber technologies and cyber defense,” said Yvette Bourcicot, acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs. “National demand for cybersecurity talent remains high, while the supply for the talent is low. Further, cyber — like other STEM fields — is one of the least demographically diverse fields in the country. The Army JROTC Cyber Program addresses this national workforce need by preparing cadets for careers in cybersecurity fields.”
The launch of the pilot program was a joint development between the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (M&RA) and United States Army Cadet Command.
“The purpose of the program is to motivate young people to be better cyber citizens, to inspire interest in the cyber security field, and to strengthen the nation’s diverse cyber defense workforce,” said Edith Pickens, the M&RA lead action officer for the pilot program. “The key element of this program is for students to be mentored by those who have experience in the cyber security field and have the opportunity to learn and grow into a cyber security path.”
A character-development and citizenship program for high school students, Army JROTC programs operate in more than 1,700 schools across the country, with more than 300,000 cadets. The Cyber Pilot, a four-year curriculum, will include 180 contact hours per year, with more than 130 of those hours devoted to cyber, which will provide “students with challenging and relevant experience to prepare them to enter the cyber workforce,” said Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command. The pilot will launch during the 2022-2023 school year.
Curriculum topics include a heavy emphasis on ethics, as well as preparation for Computing Technology Industry Association certifications. Working with government, industry and academia, students will also gain exposure to cyber careers, as well as mentorship opportunities, including a brand new cross-collaboration partnership with the FBI.
“Cyber defense is an industry that is growing exponentially, and the JROTC Cyber Pilot Program will work to provide America’s youth the choices and options in the 15 to 19 year old age range to succeed as young adults in this career field,” said Maj. Gen. John Phillips, commanding general of the 335th Signal Command (Theater). “There are many stakeholders working toward the success of this program so that our youth can support cyber defense in a military or civilian capacity.”
The kickoff celebration was an opportunity to bring together JROTC instructors from the pilot schools to learn more about the curriculum, gather resources, network and hear directly from Army senior leaders about the importance of the pilot.
“There are a lot of opportunities for kids to receive higher education — we can carry this on for years to come. I like that there’s longevity in their learning,” said retired Maj. Crystal Armstrong with Liberty Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The 11 schools chosen to participate in the pilot include Francis Lewis High School, New York; Franklin Military Academy, Virginia; Jackson-Reed High School, Washington, D.C.; Liberty Magnet High School, Louisiana; Missouri Military Academy, Missouri; New Mexico Military Institute, New Mexico; Putnam City West High School, Oklahoma; Shortridge High School, Indianapolis; Sidney Lanier High School, Texas; Thomas Edison High School, New York; and Vanguard High School, Texas. Schools were selected based on their proximity to the military and businesses/industries that do cyber work, as well as academic institutions with a cyber-presence.
Schools were selected based on their proximity to the military and businesses/industries that do cyber work, as well as academic institutions with a cyber presence.
The goal, according to organizers, is to expand the program in the years to come.
“The Army has chosen you to lead the way in this program that will grow a diverse cyber talent pipeline for our country,” Bourcicot told the educators. “Your dedication, passion and willingness to innovate will inspire other schools.”
Those who would like more information should visit the Army JROTC Cyber Pilot Program website at: https://www.usarmyjrotc.com/employment/cyber_pilot.php