Members of Congress urged Defense Secretary James Mattis in a letter to incorporate cybersecurity into high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) programs.
Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and David Perdue, R-Ga., wrote: “As you know, our nation must enhance our capabilities in cyberspace to keep pace with increasing cyber threats. Recruiting and retaining technically skilled cybersecurity personnel is fundamental to strengthening these capabilities.
“In order to fill the growing skills gap, we must encourage more students to pursue cybersecurity careers. As with other career paths, students should be introduced to cybersecurity early in their education as they discover their passions and develop their expertise.”
The letter cites recommendations by the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity and current and former Defense officials that cybersecurity awareness should be instilled at an early age.
“We understand that the curricula for the JROTC programs vary across the services and are established by processes individualized for each service,” they wrote. “While all of the JROTC program curricula include some components of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)–and some units do participate in youth-focused competitions such as the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program–it is not clear whether any of the curricula explicitly require teaching cybersecurity awareness or similar topics to JROTC units.”
The letter points to more than 200,000 information security jobs that remain unfilled within the U.S., some of which exist in the department of Defense itself, as reason to focus specifically on cybersecurity training.
“The Air Force Association is committed to doing all we can to develop a cadre of American youth with the technical skills and citizenship needed to help our nation confront the very serious cybersecurity challenges we face,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch, national commissioner of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Program. “That is why we created CyberPatriot, and that is why we support the members’ efforts to include cybersecurity in JROTC curricula.”