The University of the Virgin Islands has been awarded a five-year $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), as part of a White House initiative to strengthen cybersecurity expertise in America. In January, United States Vice President Joe Biden announced the creation of the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline, which is designed to create a consortium composed of 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), two national labs, and a k-12 school district. The consortium will receive the $25 million grant award over the next five years. Cybersecurity is a new multi-disciplinary field involving processes and technologies deployed to protect critical infrastructures and data from vulnerabilities or attacks, said UVI Associate Professor of computer science Dr. Marc Boumedine, who applied for the cybersecurity grant and is the principal investigator. With the cyberspace expansion, businesses, government agencies, educational institutions and even individuals are increasingly affected by cyber-risks, he said. The main objective of the cyber consortium is to educate and train the nation’s future cybersecurity experts. The consortium will receive the $25 million grant award over the next five years.
“This undertaking by NNSA is an important investment in the future,” said U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz. “It will help ensure a sustainable pipeline of cybersecurity experts to protect the information systems that are a critical part of our nation’s nuclear security infrastructure.”
“The University of the Virgin Islands is extremely honored to be selected to participate in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s cybersecurity consortium,” said UVI President David Hall, who represented UVI at a signing ceremony at the U.S. Department of Energy, and at the inaugural program sponsored at the White House in January. “This five-year $25 million grant will permit all consortium members to prepare and develop students who have the skills and experience to protect this nation’s cyber assets.”
“Our selection is a testament to the past work of our computer science faculty and the growing national reputation of the University,” Dr. Hall said. “Vice President Biden’s public announcement of the grant and the consortium demonstrates the national significance and importance of this effort. This grant, and the work we do in the next five years, is more evidence that UVI is on the pathway to greatness, and others, including DOE and the White House, have observed our journey and our trajectory.”
“It is imperative for the Virgin Islands to tap into the pool of talents in the territory and prepare them to build safer cyber-space and protect our data, computers and networks,” said Dr. Boumedine. “UVI, with the support of the consortium, is dedicated to build a K-20 Cyber education pipeline in the Virgin Islands by training teachers and undergraduates as well as educating secondary students.”
The cybersecurity consortium will focus on the critical need to fill the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. job market, while also diversifying the pipeline of talent in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The University will receive the $1.3 million award over five years starting in fiscal year 2014-2015. The grants will help the National Nuclear Security Administration to institute a partnership with the next generation of future leaders, increase the number of minority students pursuing cyber security careers, and support NNSA in meeting its cyber security demands. The grants will also help to attract minority graduates for employment within NNSA laboratories and plants.
“It is rare that one of this nation’s highest priorities, which is to secure nuclear armaments from ending up in the wrong hands, is being entrusted to Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Dr. Hall said. “UVI is willing to take on this challenge and help prepare the next generation of ‘cyber protectors.’”
“Through the consortium, UVI students, faculty and the community will be trained on cutting edge technologies and processes usually only available at national laboratories,” said Dr. Boumedine. “Accessing these assets will permit our students to acquire specialized knowledge and skills critical in order compete for a growing demand in the field.”
The cybersecurity consortium, which was established by DOE/NNSA’s Minority Serving Institutions Partnerships Program (MSIPP), allows participating schools to open doors to DOE sites and facilities to student members of the consortium. This partnership will strengthen and expand Minority Serving Institutions’ capacity and research in DOE/NNSA missions. It will also increase participation of MSI faculty in DOE/NNSA activities. MSI faculty will be able to participate in collaborative research, technical workshops, expert panel reviews/studies, and competitive processes.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise.