Senators urge against shuttering of Pentagon’s cyber college

"We fear that such an action sends the wrong message to our warfighters and to our adversaries," the senators wrote in a letter to DOD leadership.
National Defense University (NDU) faculty
National Defense University (NDU) faculty walk out of Roosevelt Hall for the graduation ceremony at Fort McNair on June 7, 2018. (DOD / Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

A bipartisan group of senators has asked the Department of Defense to reconsider consolidating or closing its College of Information and Cyberspace.

Part of the National Defense University, the College of Information and Cyberspace was developed to “prepare information leaders to play critical roles in national security in the Information Age.” But now, nearly 40 years after the institution’s founding, the DOD is considering walking it back at a time when there’s an “ever-increasing reliance on technology in warfare,”  the senators write in a letter to Secretary Mark Esper and his deputy, David Norquist.

NDU has proposed a reorganization in leadership that would take away the CIC’s full-degree and certificate programs, making any remaining IT or cybersecurity courses electives under other program areas.

“We believe that academic programs specializing in cyber and information warfare should not be relegated to standalone elective courses within other NDU colleges, in lieu of their full degree or certificate-granting status at the CIC,” says the letter, signed by Sens. Michael Rounds, R-S.D., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. “We fear that such an action sends the wrong message to our warfighters and to our adversaries. The strategic environment today demands carefully calibrated strategy, policy and operations in cyberspace and the information domain. Accordingly, we should be building up — not diluting— cyber education for military and civilian personnel.”


Any changes to the college would violate U.S. law, which specifically designated the CIC as “a constituent institution of the NDU.”

“The institutionalization of the CIC in code was a deliberate choice of the Congress in recognition of the importance of graduate education in the complex disciplines involved in cyber and information warfare,” the letter says. Deviating from this structure would require a change in law or congressional approval, the senators say.

Senior DOD IT and cybersecurity leaders don’t support the changes, apparently. The senators claim in the letter that the U.S. Cyber Command and DOD CIO Dana Deasy “have made clear that this decision would cause unacceptable harm to the joint mission of training and cultivating a professional cyber workforce, resulting in a workforce shortfall in the face of ever-increasing demand for cyber expertise and cyber professionals.”

While the NDU hasn’t made any sort of official announcement around a potential restructuring, the program is already taking a hit. Some faculty have left and potential students are not applying because of the uncertainty, the letter says.

“It greatly concerns us that the NDU appears to have encouraged this uncertainty and attenuation, failed to respect the Congress’ intent and institutionalization of the CIC in law and may not be able to restore that lost expertise and capability,” the senators say.


They continue on: “Maintaining and growing the College of Information and Cyberspace in the NDU is critical for our shared educational objectives. Doing so sends the appropriate message to our peer competitors that we will remain at the forefront of emergent warfighting domains.”

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