Articles

Base Leaders Unveil Air Force Cyber College

The new college could mean thousands of dollars of revenue for Montgomery, Ala., giving it the potential to become a hub for cybereducation.

by Rebecca Burylo, Montgomery Advertiser / June 10, 2015

(TNS) -- Failings in cybersecurity has made national headlines in both the private sector and government and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama wants to curb those virtual insecurities by launching a revolutionary Air Force Cyber College in September.

It could also mean thousands of dollars of revenue for Montgomery, giving it the potential to become a hub for cybereducation.

"What we're seeing is a need to think through those cybersecurity problems and come up with solutions using enlisted personnel and officers thinking through tough issues, and use that education foundation to implement lessons they learn toward the national defense," Dr. Pano Yannakogeorgos said.

Yannakogeorgos is the research professor of cyber policy at Maxwell and the deputy director of the cyber-research task force at Air University. He works directly with Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the president and commander of the Air University.

Maxwell leadership announced the formation of the Cyber College on Tuesday.

Kwast said they will build a "learning environment where airmen can learn from the leading cyberspace strategists." It's a goal Kwast has envisioned since becoming the commander of AU.

"We are moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms where students listen to lectures and pass tests. The new cyber college will be a learning institution where students have collaborative access to great cyberminds at Air University from anywhere in the world," explained Kwast.

The college will become a learning institution where active-duty students and reservists, sister services and international partners can study together and innovate solutions to the nation's cyberchallenges.

Yannakogeorgos said they are currently searching the nation for leading cyberstrategists within innovators like Apple, Dell, Microsoft, HP and others to share their expertise not only with military students, but with local universities and businesses as well.

Maxwell leadership has already talked with the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Auburn University and other community partners about ways to collaborate.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the new Cyber College is a huge step forward for Montgomery, comparing the new initiative to that of another Hyundai plant.

"It changes the paradigm of education opportunity for the entire region," Strange said. "You got cyberthinkers, cyberengineers, cybertechnicians and cyberwarriors coming to Montgomery. Just look at Gunter. You have contractors there who stay in Montgomery and start their own business.

"Montgomery has the capability of becoming an epicenter of cyber; another Silicon Valley of cyber," Strange added. "This is something I can get excited about."

Auburn University was mentioned as a strong part of community collaboration. Military students will be able to use their cyber-center lab and gain an "out-of-the-box" look at cyber, Yannakogeorgos said.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess leads the national security, cyber and military programs at Auburn University. He said Auburn and AUM will make their resources available to the new Cyber College.

"We're at the point now where we're talking about how the Air Force should perceive doctrine, strategy, policy and how the Air Force should be thinking about the cyber-realm and Auburn is a part of that conversation," Burgess said.

"Kwast has taken that vision and put some meat on the bones ... now the real work begins. Cyber is constantly changing, so this college is going to have to be among the most adaptable and flexible schools inside Air University," Burgess said.

In turn, the Air Force will provide Auburn and AUM students with an inside-look into military technology capabilities as it pertains to national defense.

Clif Lusk, with university relations at Troy University, is very excited to learn what role Troy will have in the upcoming Cyber College.

"We've always have had a long-standing relationship with the military at Maxwell," Lusk said. "Although our role is not yet defined, leadership here has been in contact with them and we're looking forward to a new juncture of cooperation with Air University."

Cyber College will actually be housed in a network of different buildings already at Maxwell and will be offered as hybrid electives for in-resident Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students with the possibility of enrolling nonmilitary students.

The courses will bring external expertise and internal experts from Gunter Annex, which provides information technology for every airman and the Department of Defense through the Business Enterprise Systems Directorate, the Defense Information Systems Agency or DISA, and Cyber Command among others.

The announcement is only the first step in the journey of the Cyber College becoming a national cybercenter similar to the National Defense University's Cyber Leadership program, but Air University has high hopes.

"Maxwell is in a unique position to have a great impact on the Air Force at large. We have the greatest range, depth and breadth of expertise to include Air Force information technology and impact airmen at every level of their career, because at some point they will pass through Maxwell. Now they will know the risks cyber might pose to their mission in defense of the nation," Yannakogeorgos said.

©2015 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.