ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The U.S. Naval Academy is aiming to be among the first colleges to have a cybersecurity major accredited by a top professional body, a school official said Monday, and the superintendent said he has been meeting with Navy officials about how to find funding to build a $100 million cybersecurity facility on campus.

Boyd Waite, vice academic dean, told the academy’s Board of Visitors that the school would like to have the major in cybersecurity that is now under development accredited by ABET within four years. ABET is a leading nonprofit accrediting agency for the disciplines of applied science, computing and engineering.

“It is the way that the public can be assured that we use accepted practices and policies in the delivery of our programs, so this is a big deal for us,” Waite said.

It’s the latest goal in a push by the academy to develop top-notch training for a field of growing importance in national security. Last year, the academy announced it was changing its core curriculum for the first time in about a decade to add two cybersecurity courses that would be taken by all midshipmen.

Last year’s freshman class, known as the plebe class, was the first to take a course in cybersecurity for a semester. Next year, all will be required to take a second course, making them the first class to have taken both courses in cybersecurity, Waite said.

The academy is still working to develop a major in cyber operations, with an eye toward having the first courses available for the class of 2016.

“Though this timeline is not definite yet, if we are successful this would mean that the current plebe class would be able to select cyber operations as their major later this year, and then begin taking classes within that major next fall,” Waite said.

Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Michael Miller told the board that he has met with Navy officials recently to discuss ways of finding funding to build a new facility on campus to house a cybersecurity center. Miller, while mindful of difficult budget negotiations in Washington, said he hopes there could be potential for getting started in the defense authorization process for fiscal year 2014, with the possibility of building a facility by fiscal year 2018. Miller also noted that the plan would be to pursue a public-private partnership to get the facility built.

“We are firmly convinced here that this is the place and now is the time,” Miller said.

Members of the board have encouraged the academy to focus on developing cybersecurity training at the school. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who has been an advocate of developing Maryland into a hub for cybersecurity research, urged the superintendent to meet with board members early next year to talk about how they can help.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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