MOBILE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is dedicated to fostering science, technology, engineering and mathematics education initiatives that encourage innovative activities that grow the national STEM workforce community.
Richard P. De Fatta, USASMDC deputy to the commander, and Jo Bonner, University of South Alabama president, signed an educational partnership agreement on May 31 at the USA School of Computing that formalizes a long-standing partnership between the two.
“Our (memorandum of understanding) with the University of South Alabama signifies the beginning of a key SMDC partnership with yet another academic institution in the areas of cybersecurity and protective technologies development,” De Fatta said. “This collaboration brings increased awareness of Army requirements and activities in this critical research, shapes future efforts, and will equip students with the necessary skills to navigate the cyber challenges we face today and in the future.”
The EPA further gives the possibility for loans of surplus equipment from USASMDC that looks to enhance STEM education at the university. Dr. Todd McDonald, director of the Center for Forensics, Information Technology and Security, helped establish the agreement with collaborating efforts from Terry Carlson, USASMDC chief cyber strategist.
“The SMDC EPA has opened new ways to recruit students for scientific research and study within the School of Computing, and we have begun to gather a cohort of interested undergraduate and graduate students who want to pursue research in hardware assurance, machine learning, anomaly detection, and vulnerability analysis,” McDonald said. “The EPA has also helped provide interactions and visits with SMDC staff to help focus USA faculty research interest toward areas that will directly support the SMDC mission space.”
During the five-year agreement period, the university will host visits from USASMDC that will aid development of coursework and help provide academic and career advice for students interested in pursuing future careers in the technical and scientific workforce of the U.S. Army.
This essentially broadens the opportunities for faculty and student involvement with researchers at USASMDC in areas of mutual interest and concern and broadens exposure of the Army mission to students to grow the national STEM workforce.
Carlson said the scope of the agreement is to build a center of excellence in protective technologies at USA to serve as an incubator for digital forensics, cybersecurity analysts and threat detection to provide the command, the Army and other government agencies with highly skilled talent needed to provide improved cyber protection for systems and weapon systems.
Carlson said that creating a state-of-the-art lab where students at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels can apply a hands-on application of the latest methods for detecting vulnerabilities will be a significant step forward in staffing the Department of Defense, the Army and USASMDC cyber protection teams with quality candidates to make systems more resilient against cyberattacks.
“We are extremely happy about the prospect of partnering with Dr. McDonald and the other University of South Alabama professors and to work with the students at all levels on these cybersecurity and protective technologies efforts,” Carlson said. “This collaboration holds the potential to shape a future and equip students with the necessary skills to navigate the cyber challenges we face today and will face in the future.”