The US Department of Defense (DoD) has recently forged a groundbreaking partnership with the University of Kansas to address the escalating challenges posed by cyber threats and to safeguard the electromagnetic spectrum. This innovative collaboration has given rise to the Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY), a dynamic training center designed to nurture the next generation of military cyber specialists.

Granting a Vision: The $1.5 Million DoD Investment in VICEROY

Endowed with a substantial grant of $1.5 million from the DoD, the VICEROY Virtual Institute is set to play a pivotal role in shaping the future landscape of cyber defense. The institute’s core objective is to equip military and civilian leaders with the essential skills to combat the growing menace of cyberattacks and ensure the security of the electromagnetic spectrum. As modern electronic warfare systems grow increasingly intricate, the challenge of shielding networks from cyber threats becomes ever more daunting.

Professor Fengjun Li, lead researcher at the University of Kansas, stressed the importance of efficiently managing and allocating spectrum resources, detecting and countering sophisticated interference, and upholding reliable and secure communication in contested environments. The collaborative effort of the University of Kansas, Ohio State University, and Purdue University Northwest aims to train individuals capable of addressing these multifaceted challenges head-on.

The VICEROY Virtual Institute’s comprehensive curriculum includes a multifaceted approach to cybersecurity. Trainees will be immersed in both theoretical frameworks and practical applications, thus fostering a holistic understanding of cyber threats and strategies. Notably, the program incorporates hands-on training and research-oriented learning, preparing individuals to operate effectively in real-world scenarios.

Cyber group hosts exercise to evolve operators
A member of the 833rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron participating in the monthly “hunt exercise” at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in 2019. (Image source: DVIDS)

Language as a Shield: Preparing for Emerging Cyber Threats

As part of this innovative training, proficiency in strategic foreign languages, particularly Chinese, will be provided. This strategic preparation underscores the institute’s commitment to ensuring preparedness against potential cyber threats from diverse sources.

Li articulated the critical importance of developing a pipeline of cyber leaders to bolster the nation’s defenses in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

“Equipping the future generation of military and civilian leaders with essential skills in cyber and EMS security through experiential learning is becoming more crucial in our interconnected society,” Li said, emphasizing the program’s far-reaching impact.

Trailblazing in Fall 2023: The VICEROY Virtual Institute Launch

Scheduled for launch in the fall of 2023, the VICEROY Virtual Institute promises to be a transformative force in cyber defense. Its augmented curriculum is set to enrich existing education in cyber and EMS operations, providing scholars with a comprehensive toolkit to navigate the complexities of modern cybersecurity. Through scholarships, hands-on training, and research-oriented experiential learning, the institute seeks to foster a new breed of cyber experts capable of safeguarding the nation’s security.

The University of Kansas School of Engineering, with its rich cybersecurity and electromagnetic spectrum research history, stands at the forefront of this initiative. Bolstered by its Institute for Information Sciences (I2S), the university has consistently led the charge in research and development in fields crucial to cybersecurity. Continual support ensures that the university remains a robust hub of cybersecurity innovation.

Advancing Cyber Talents: The US Air Force’s Trail to Excellence

In a parallel endeavor, the US Air Force is charting new territory in its quest to recruit and retain top-tier cyber professionals. Recognizing the dynamic nature of cybersecurity, the Air Force is pioneering a dedicated career track for cyber experts. This forward-thinking approach empowers service members to specialize in cybersecurity throughout their careers, obviating the need for rotation into other positions. The goal is to create a sustainable pipeline of cyber talent that can adapt and thrive within the rapidly changing digital landscape.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown highlighted the significance of this initiative in July, emphasizing the need to break away from traditional career paradigms.

“You don’t necessarily have to follow a tried and true career path—you can have a different path,” Brown remarked.

The aim is to create a conducive environment for cyber professionals to excel in their domain, ultimately bolstering national security.

The US Air Force’s commitment extends beyond this career path. It has also initiated a program to enable experienced professionals to be commissioned into active duty service at higher ranks. This cyber direct commissioning program seeks to tap into previously untapped talent pools, accelerating the entry of cyber experts into the officer ranks with commensurate rank and pay.

Towards a Secure Tomorrow: United Front Against Cyber Threats

As the digital frontier continues to evolve, these initiatives collectively pave the way for a more secure future. The US Department of Defense’s collaboration with the University of Kansas and the Air Force’s innovative approach to talent recruitment signal a united front against cyber threats, ensuring that the nation’s defenses remain resilient in the face of emerging challenges.