Science & Tech

Texas A&M Designated National Center Of Academic Excellence In Cyber Operations By NSA

June 5, 2017

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By Deana Totzke, Texas A&M University College of Engineering

The National Security Agency (NSA), along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has designated Texas A&M University as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Operations, making it one of only a handful of academic institutions in the United States to hold three NSA distinctions. Texas A&M is already designated as CAE – Four-Year Baccalaureate/Graduate Education (CAE-CDE) and CAE – Research (CAE-R). The newest designation certificates will be presented during an awards ceremony at the 9th Annual National Cyber Summit on June 7.

Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center and professor of practice in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was pleased with the new designation.

“We’re thrilled and wholly gratified that the NSA, after a very thorough and comprehensive review of our programs, has determined that we should join the select group of institutions designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations,” he said. “This designation is a true testimony to the extraordinary efforts of A&M’s world-class faculty, over many years, to ensure that we are engaging in high-impact cybersecurity and cyber operations research and education. Also, it underscores (the fact that) these faculty have helped our highly talented students to acquire important and increasingly valuable knowledge, skills and abilities, which will serve them well throughout their professional lives.”

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NSA experts visited in March as part of the second round of evaluations in the process to obtain the designation. The NSA representatives were given presentations by faculty members in the computer science and engineering department outlining the courses that Texas A&M offers that include cybersecurity-related material. After the visit, NSA representatives said Texas A&M had demonstrated the capability to provide undergraduate level curricula that satisfied the necessary academic requirements.

“The cybersecurity area presents students with technical challenges that require the understanding of many computing disciplines,” said Dr. Dilma Da Silva, department head, professor and holder of the Ford Motor Company Design Professorship II in the computer science and engineering department. “This designation as a center of excellence recognizes the strengths of our curriculum in both breadth and depth.”

Ragsdale said beyond bolstering Texas A&M’s increasingly positive reputation in cybersecurity, which includes the appointment of Dr. Steve Cambone as the associate vice chancellor for cybersecurity initiatives, the impact of the new designation should be very significant, both in education and research.

“Simply stated, these designations reinforce our message that A&M, with its amazing faculty and through our many cybersecurity initiatives, is making outsized contributions to social good,” Ragsdale said. “This new designation, along with our previously awarded NSA/DHS accolades, will provide A&M faculty the opportunity to pursue sponsored research that would otherwise not have been available to them.”

Ragsdale said in the past six months alone Texas A&M faculty members have been awarded three grants they were eligible for only because of the CAE designations. As an institution, this shows Texas A&M is moving to the very forefront of cybersecurity research and education.

“As A&M looks to attract prospective students, prospective faculty and staff and potential collaborators from the public and private sectors, we now have even greater justification for making this compelling assertion, ‘if you wish to attend (or teach or conduct research at) a premier research institution with a nationally recognized cybersecurity program, you must consider Texas A&M,’” Ragsdale said.


This story by Deana Totzke originally appeared on the College of Engineering website.


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