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The House Armed Services Committee’s top Republican wants to establish a cyber, digital, and artificial-intelligence academy for military and Defense Department civilians to boost their skills in an area key to national security.
A service-academy type institution would arm Pentagon personnel with “the skills that they need to take on all these challenges that we anticipate — that we know are already serious — and that are going to become much more problematic from various nation states,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said in an interview. “We are just not prepared as a nation.”
The academy likely would be set up as a public-private partnership, potentially attracting involvement from companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other high-tech firms in Silicon Valley, Rogers said. The public-private partnership idea stemmed from a discussion with Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, Rogers added.
Those who qualify for training at the institution would have to work for the Pentagon and federal government for a number of years because it would be a service academy with tuition paid by the government.
The academy would start with Defense Department military and civilians and expand to other federal government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, and eventually serve other institutions that are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks.
“We have 300,000 cyber jobs that are unfilled because we just don’t have the people trained to do it and that is across the spectrum of government and economic institutions,” said Rogers, who was one of the brains behind the new Space Force. “It’s a way for us to start addressing the shortfall that we have.”
The Alabama Republican said he doesn’t have a preference where such an institution would be located.
The cyber university is only one priority for the new ranking member of the Armed Services Committee as the panel begins work on the next defense authorization bill — one of the few pieces of legislation that’s enacted into law every year.
Keeping a focus on China and “the threats that they pose to us in all domains whether it is water, space, air, terrestrially, cyber,” is also crucial to his work on the committee. “That has to be our number one focus,” and will shape the defense authorization bill, he said.
Rogers said he’d fight to protect the defense budget from cuts at a minimum but would like to see a growth of a 3-5% each year if possible, as envisioned in the latest national defense strategy.
While some progressive Democrats in the House are seeking cuts to defense, Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said that drastic cuts would not be likely or feasible. National security spending currently stands at $740.5 billion, including some Department of Energy programs and war operations spending.
The Biden administration hasn’t sent any signals yet that it would back any kinds of significant cuts. The new administration’s budget request is likely to come in late April or early May, which would push back the armed services panel’s work, according to Rogers.
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