October 24, 2022

In 2021, cybercrime cost the globe an estimated $6 trillion, but the potential damage of a cyberattack on our country’s infrastructure or military is incalculable. Today, cybercrime has become a national priority, with much of the country’s operations in both the public and private sectors online and interconnected. Recognizing that the university has a duty to employ its vast resources for the good of individuals living in the digital world and, collectively, our nation, Texas A&M is getting down to business.

The university embarked on its cyber mission in 2015 with its Cybersecurity Center and, later, the development of an interdisciplinary cybersecurity minor in the College of Engineering and cybersecurity programs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Recently, visionaries Ray Rothrock ’77 and Anthony Wood ’87 created The Texas A&M Global Cyber Research Institute with a $10 million gift. While that initiative is just taking flight, another program is producing Aggies well-prepared to fight battles that most don’t realize exist.

We can have the best concepts, the ideal structure and the right equipment, but it won't work if we can’t find those individuals trained and educated to solve problems and make strategic decisions.
Erica Pearson

In 2020, Texas A&M partnered with the other five senior military colleges to create “cyber institutes” to provide talent pipelines to the Department of Defense (DoD). Aggies contributed to the initiative by establishing the Defense Cyber Leader Development Program (DCLDP). This two-year program, valued at approximately $30,000 per student, offers hands-on training, industry certifications, internships and mentoring to prepare graduates for DoD cyber mission force and cybersecurity work roles.

Dr. John Walter, the program’s director, expressed that its goal is to ensure the best and brightest minds are equipped to safeguard the nation’s interests. “U.S. government agencies realized how competitive recruiting had become within the technology world, and they knew it would be challenging to attract young people to a cyber career within the federal agencies,” Walter explained.

Each year, 20 students pursuing one of the three cybersecurity minor tracks are selected for the program. “We provide all the training they need for as little cost as possible,” Walter shared. During the school year, the students are compensated for working four to 15 hours per week at the Texas A&M University System Security Operations Center. “They’re just starting out, but they’re becoming experts in real time,” he said.“They learn techniques like how to trace intruders into a network and find out where they’re from.”