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Cyber Commander Presses for Math, Science Education

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BALTIMORE, Oct. 20, 2011 – Ask the top U.S. cyber warrior how to ensure the next generation of Americans is able to confront future security challenges and he’ll tell you: beef up their math, science and technology education today.

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, is on a campaign to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics education nationwide.

The United States lags behind much of the world in building these capabilities that will be essential to the future national security framework, he told participants today at the International Systems Security Association conference here.

Alexander rattled off statistics about the percentage of graduates around the world earning so-called “STEM” degrees. In China, it’s 47 percent; in South Korea, 38 percent; and n Germany, 28 percent.

In the United States, only 4 percent of all graduates earn STEM degrees. “We’ve got to fix that,” Alexander said.

Recognizing that today’s and tomorrow’s graduates will form the background of the future U.S. security workforce, the National Security Agency is a partner in a nationwide effort to promote STEM education.

In 1998, NSA established centers of excellence to identify universities that provide outstanding information assurance programs. Today, NSA and the Department of Homeland Security co-sponsor the National Centers of Excellence in Information Assurance Education and CAE-Research programs.

The program, which includes 118 colleges and universities, aims to promote higher education and research in these areas, and develop more professionals with information assurance expertise, Alexander explained.

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce vulnerability in the United States’ national information infrastructure.

While calling these and related programs a great step in the right direction, Alexander said they’re not enough. “If we have 4 percent of our graduating classes with STEM, perhaps we could and should be doing better,” he said.

What’s needed, he said, are core science programs beginning as early as elementary school that ultimately will ensure the nation’s long-term security.

“How are we going to educate, not just my grandchildren, but all the other kids their age?” he asked. “How do we get the United States back on the right course for STEM? And what can we do to help push that?”

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander

Related Sites:
DOD Science and Technology News
National Centers of Excellence

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