The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) has launched an all-new, customized track within the existing Electronic Systems Engineering curriculum in response to an ever-changing and increasing need within cyberspace and the Navy's growing Cyber Warfare Engineer (CWE) community.
The new curriculum was developed by NPS Center for Cyber Warfare Director and Permanent Military Professor U.S. Navy Cmdr. Chad Bollmann, with the advice of the CWE community and subject matter experts from across the NPS campus. With plans to roll out in fiscal year 2022, the program will focus on cyberwarfare with the intent to educate the CWE community while providing the Navy and DOD with new opportunities to educate the future force in the vast field of cyber.
"The main purpose for creating this track is to provide a highly-technical education in the area of cyber warfare and cyber operations for those naval officers who have the mathematical and technical backgrounds to study a rigorous engineering curriculum that specializes in the area of cyber warfare," said NPS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair Douglas Fouts.
"By creating this new program, we were able to provide a sampling of all the best programs and specialization areas that support cyber warfare," added Bollmann. "Cyber itself is hard and frankly ill-defined a lot of times, because there are so many different disciplines that are required for effective cyber warfare."
The track will consist of three core areas (reverse engineering, networks, and mobile wireless systems) along with 13 specialization fields allowing students to develop expertise within a specific contributing discipline within cyber.
"The uniqueness has to do with the rigorous computer science, electrical engineering and mathematics foundation, along with the ability to choose from one of many contributing cyber disciplines to build out their knowledge in the best way that supports a student's desires and the community's needs," noted Bollmann. "Essentially, NPS is going to be the primary source of CWE graduate education."
Bollmann is quick to emphasize that NPS is one of a few universities, if not the only one, that could successfully develop a custom, high-qualty program within the field of cyber with so many options for specialization.
“There is no other university with this breadth of subject matter excellence in cyber,” said Bollmann. “Partially, it is because we are unique in terms of mission, but also because of several other specialized, unique programs at the university.”
NPS core technical strengths in programs like electrical and computer engineering, computer science, mathematics, and information science provide the foundation, Bollmann said. In addition, NPS’ ability to perform applied, classified research and teach courses at both classified and unclassified levels is significant in evolving strong programs in cyber operations, software forensics, electronic warfare, and space systems. Finally, NPS is widely recognized across the Navy and DOD for its flagship programs in operations research and electronic warfare, and has been designated by the National Security Agency as a Center of Cyber Academic Excellence in Defense, Operations and Research for several years.
Put it all together, Bollmann says, and “the bottom line is that there is no other place that is strong across the board like this.”
The new track was developed with the aid of CWE students who are currently enrolled in NPS’ Cyber Systems and Operations program. This opportunity and experience from the students provide NPS and Bollmann the assurance that the track aligns with the exact needs and wants of the CWE community.
"The biggest aspect of being in the trial is providing feedback to help fine-tune the options," said NPS student U.S. Navy Lt. Luke Baden. "For example, highlighting difficult areas that perhaps we need more focus on, like vulnerability research for example, or ensuring the course progression for a track makes sense based on our expected background on arrival."
With the program receiving a provisional approval, Bollmann said, the CWE community is requesting two student billets at the master's level each year and a separate billet for a Ph.D. every year alternating between electrical and computer engineering, and computer science.
"Our community is going through a lot of growth and expansion at present," noted Baden. "I think the curriculum here is going to help continue to professionalize our community as our mission set and footprint within the Navy expands."
With the constantly evolving threat of cyber warfare ever looming, NPS, the Navy, and DOD must search for new ways to traverse this changing battleground.
"To be successful at cyber warfare, one must be able to defend against both old and new cyber threats, and also able to take advantage of both old and new cyber vulnerabilities of our adversaries," noted Fouts. "Cyber Warfare is going to play a huge part in any future conflict, and in fact, it has already played a huge part in recent conflicts. Therefore, if the Navy expects to win battles in the future, it needs to be able to win in cyberspace, as well as on the sea, under the sea, and in the air."