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Naval Academy to add cybersecurity classes

ANNAPOLIS — The U.S. Naval Academy is changing its core curriculum for the first time in about 10 years by adding two cybersecurity courses, academy officials announced Monday.

The two new requirements come as the school is ramping up training in a field of growing importance to national security. The academy also is pursuing funding to construct a building to house a Center for Cyber Security Studies, which could cost between $80 million and $100 million.

“All along, our role has been to develop one or two courses that would give every academy graduate a solid foundation in cybersecurity,” said Andrew Phillips, the school’s academic dean. “We spent over a year now collecting advice and feedback from the Navy and the Marine Corps and shopping our ideas around with anyone who might have an opinion and some expertise in this area.”

The academy has been working for more than a year to incorporate the field into the school’s curriculum. The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy have had cybersecurity as part of information technology requirements for more than a decade. The Naval Academy moved away from the field in the early 1990s because of pressure to reduce the size of the school’s curriculum due to time demands on students.

“I think that the Naval Academy, when I first came to this board, it wasn’t that much of an issue, and now I think you have really accelerated the whole issue of cybersecurity and cyber defense and cyber offense,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, who became a member of the academy’s Board of Visitors in 2007 and is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

All freshmen students next year will take a course on how to recognize cyber risks and threats. They will be the first class to take another semester of cybersecurity in their junior year with a technical emphasis on computer network defense.

“The offensive aspect of cyber is already taught in the computer science program, and that’s where we expect the future cyber warriors to come from,” Phillips said. “So our focus in the core curriculum is to develop the awareness of the risks and the threats to understand the basic principles that attackers use now and are likely to continue to use in the future to exploit our cyber defenses.”

It’s the first time the core curriculum at the academy has been changed in about 10 years, when it added an information technology course, which will be dropped to help make room for the new courses.

A Naval warfare course that includes strategy and tactics generally geared more toward senior Navy officers also will be cut, but aspects of the course more relevant to junior officers will be merged into a course taken by midshipmen in their last year at the academy.

Phillips outlined the changes to the academy’s Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress and functions like a board of trustees at a civilian college. Members of the board have taken a strong interest in making sure the school’s future naval officers get more training in cybersecurity.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy’s superintendent, said the academy has conferred with the nearby National Security Agency and the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command at Fort Meade, as well as the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University.

“All of those have had a direct impact on this course,” Miller said.

Naval Academy officials also announced another record for applications for the class of 2015, which has 19,132 applicants. That’s compared with 17,416 applicants for the class of 2014, which was a record high. The number of minority applications also reached a record high of 6,655. That’s compared with 5,379 last year, which was a record high as well. Female applications are at a record high as well, about a 13 percent increase from 3,967 for the class of 2014 to 4,488 for the incoming class.