The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), announced Oct. 30 that it has awarded $2 million to an initiative that will build a national network of cybersecurity technical institutes.

The funding was awarded to the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), a DHS Center of Excellence (CoE) led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

The aim of cybersecurity technical institutes is to shrink the cybersecurity workforce shortage. A press release from DHS cites a report from DHS and the Department of Commerce which highlights both cybersecurity workforce needs, and projected shortages.

Specifically, the report found that:

  • “The majority of U.S. critical infrastructure is owned and operated by private companies, making its cybersecurity workforce vital.
  • The Federal government depends heavily on its cybersecurity workforce, supplemented by contractors.
  • There are an estimated 299,000 active openings for cybersecurity-related jobs in the United States as of August 2017. Globally, projections suggest a cybersecurity workforce shortage of 1.8 million by 2022.”

“CISA sees the growing cybersecurity workforce shortage in the United States as a national security risk,” said Bryan Ware, CISA’s assistant director of cybersecurity. “With our government and private sector partners, CISA is striving to ‘secure tomorrow’ by preparing, growing, and sustaining the nation’s cybersecurity workforce. This award to create a national network of institutes to educate and train dynamic and diverse cybersecurity professionals is part of the administration and CISA’s initiatives and efforts to begin a trend of reducing this workforce gap.”

While UIUC will lead the charge, CIRI will work with Auburn University, Purdue University, and the University of Tulsa to conduct research and develop a consolidated plan that “uses an academic hub-and-spoke model to create a national network of cybersecurity institutes to educate and train cybersecurity professionals.”

“This is exactly the type of national need that the DHS Centers of Excellence network was established to help our nation address,” said Gia Harrigan, DHS S&T federal program manager for CIRI. “Building capacity to address critical workforce and education gaps across academia and the broader Homeland Security Enterprise is one of the things they do best.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.