Space Force cyber hiring program signs on its first university partner
California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) announced Tuesday that the school will be the first to join a new U.S. Space Force program that aims to strengthen the future of space system security.
Founded by the Department of Defense’s Space Systems Command and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the Cyber Halo Innovation Research Program (CHIRP) will offer students a two-year route to a cybersecurity career at Space Force or a partner organization.
After being selected to join the program, students will receive two years of space-based cybersecurity training, including mentorship from employees of the Space Force and PNNL, a research internship, and a week-long professional development experience at PNNL. Once the student completes the program and receives their degree, they commit to working at the Space Systems Command, which serves as the development, acquisition, launch, and logistics field command for the Space Force, or a selected industry partner.
CSUSB, which enrolls about 19,000 students, is a space-grant college that receives government funding for space-related research.
The program also aims to diversify the cybersecurity industry, which has long lacked minority representation and is disproportionately male. Evangelina Shreeve, director of PNNL’s Office of STEM Education, spoke about the program saying it “builds on the strengths of PNNL’s cybersecurity researchers and STEM education professionals, and the partnership with CSUSB means we will serve students who have been underrepresented in STEM fields.”
Space Force, like many government agencies and departments, is ramping up its cybersecurity hiring at a time when talent is especially hard to find. The cybersecurity workforce is currently facing around 600,000 unfilled jobs, leaving organizations vulnerable to the increasing threat of cyberattacks. The need for more cybersecurity employees over the years prompted the National Security Agency to grant $3 million to CSUSB’s Cybersecurity Center last year, and it selected the center as a recipient of a $10.5 million grant in 2020.
“There is an urgent need for professionals with the specialized expertise to protect our mission-critical, space-borne assets from cyber threats by adversaries. Through this collaboration, we hope to drive innovation and grow a diverse pipeline of talent in cybersecurity for Space Systems Command and beyond,” said Col. Jennifer Krolikowski-Stamer, Space Systems Command chief information officer.