US Navy forks over $300k to Alabama State cybersecurity diversity program
The Office of Naval Research gave Alabama State University $300,000 to 'help increase diversity' in the cybersecurity field.
The program begins as the Department of Defense faces criticism for recruitment advertisements perceived as weak in comparison to those of other world powers.
Alabama State University received $300,000 from the Office of Naval Research to “help increase diversity” in the cybersecurity field.
The grant — entitled "Increasing the Diversity in Cyber Security Through Undergraduate Research Experiences” — will be dispersed across several programs between July 2021 and June 2022, according to a May 21 statement from the university.
Alabama State — an historically Black university — tasked three faculty members with overseeing the usage of grant funding. Computer science professor Rajendran Swamidurai said in a statement that the grant will work toward “expos[ing] highly qualified Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) underrepresented minority students to advanced topics in cyber security through undergraduate research in state-of-the-art methodologies.”
Swamidurai also told Campus Reform that the grant will target women and underrepresented minorities.
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“Cybersecurity is a complex problem. In order to solve this, we need different ideas — different people from different background will address the problem differently and bring more innovative solutions to the cybersecurity problem at hand,” Swamidurai explained. “Therefore, it is important to create awareness among all group of people in our Nation, by providing cybersecurity training to underrepresented minorities we can create awareness among diverse population; teaching one woman is equivalent to teaching the entire family, therefore, it is important to train women students in cybersecurity.”
In its statement, the university echoed Swamidurai’s sentiments by asserting that the grant will produce more graduates with cybersecurity credentials “while also ensuring the growth of minority students in the field.”
Swamidurai also told Campus Reform that the grant could improve the capabilities of the Department of Defense by “allow[ing] individuals enrolled in ROTC to further enhance their cybersecurity and analytical skills while enhancing complex critical thinking abilities for all those involved.”
$150,000 has already been earmarked for “student support.” The remainder of the grant will be used to fund “non-traditional forms of active learning,” including “cooperative learning,” “simulation-based research,” and “experimentation.”
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Swamidurai described how Alabama State will use some of the funds.
"Our students will engineer the cyber security product with our processes, walking students through producing a working solution by having them use an agile process called Collaborative-Adversarial Pair (CAP) programming that I developed specifically to apply cutting-edge industry techniques at each point in the software lifecycle," he said.
Between the Navy grant and an earlier grant from the National Science Foundation, Swamidurai explained that Alabama State plans to establish a cybersecurity lab and research center.
“This research facility will be one of the largest in the Montgomery area and will be available for all ASU students, faculty and other stakeholders to conduct advanced cyber security research and training programs," Smawidurai said in reference to the project.
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The news of Alabama State’s program arrives as the United States Department of Defense faces backlash for recruitment advertisements perceived as weak in comparison to those of other countries.
Campus Reform reached out to Alabama State University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.