• Hawaii Air National Guardsmen evaluate network vulnerabilities during the Po‘oihe 2015 cybersecurity exercise at the University of Hawaii’s Information Technology Center. The cybersecurity exercise is part of a hurricane preparedness effort that encompasses several state and federal government organizations.
     Hawaii Air National Guardsmen evaluate network vulnerabilities during the Po‘oihe 2015 cybersecurity exercise at the University of Hawaii’s Information Technology Center. The cybersecurity exercise is part of a hurricane preparedness effort that encompasses several state and federal government organizations.

Military, Government Focus on Statewide Cyber Education

The Cyber Edge
April 1, 2016
By Lt. Col. Francis Shen, ANG, and Capt. Michael Nettis, USAF


STEM in Hawaii is boosted to sow seeds for cyber personnel.


As the U.S. Cyber Command recruits 6,200 cyber warriors for teams positioned around the world, it must deliberately work to develop a new generation of cyber-minded warfighters rather than simply repurpose existing service members to meet its goal. The nation may not be prepared to defend cyberspace unless it emphasizes key skills early in students’ educational development. Many of these efforts must begin locally, and some military forces already are working in that direction.

The U.S. Cyber Command’s (CYBERCOM’s) commander, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, USN, says cybersecurity is all about partnerships. “There is no single group, there is no single nation, there is no single segment … there is no single entity that has all the answers,” he states. “This is a challenge that will require us to work together in collaborative and innovative ways.” 

Across Hawaii, military units and individual service members are tackling this challenge head-on. For example, Lt. Col. Bob Takao, USA (Ret.), has worked at both the collegiate and high school levels to further cybersecurity education. After he finished his Army career as a professor of military science with the University of Hawaii (UH) ROTC detachment, he took a position at a local high school leading its JROTC detachment and mentoring its CyberPatriot teams. Through these efforts, he can share his military experiences and improve cybersecurity knowledge in multiple parts of the education system. 

Capt. Cliff Bean, USN, the National Security Agency (NSA) Hawaii commander, has advocated for closer relationships between his organization and the local community. He saw the benefit in partnering with UH for GenCyber, a summer cybersecurity camp experience for K-12 students and teachers. Local military cyberspace experts volunteered as course instructors, which served the twofold purpose of immersing young students in the cyberspace culture and encouraging them to pursue careers in the military. 

Those students will be needed in the future to fill jobs in the rapidly growing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, these jobs “will grow 17 percent by 2018—nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields. By 2018, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs because there will not be enough qualified workers to fill them. STEM is where jobs are today and where the job growth will be in the future.”

More cyber experts are needed, and even more so, they are needed in the military or directly supporting it. Hawaii, home to the U.S. Pacific Command and its component headquarters, possesses potential to be a prime source for this manpower. However, by 2017, Hawaii is projected to have 16,000 more jobs requiring STEM skills than it has qualified workers, and the state ranks only 47th in the number of STEM degrees awarded per 100,000 inhabitants. Academia and public and private organizations in the state have taken notice and actively are pursuing solutions. A concerted effort is underway to include education and business sectors to turn this around. David Lassner, the UH System president, states that an important part of this is “looking at current and emerging work force needs in the state of Hawaii and then designing both education and training programs that reach all the way down to public schools through public higher education at all 10 UH campuses and into the work force.” Both UH and the state vigorously have pursued grants and programs not only at the university level but also at the K-12 level. 

Another example of the state’s strategic relationship with the military is the recent appointment of Col. Reynold T. Hioki, ANG, the Hawaii Air National Guard’s top communications officer, as Hawaii’s cybersecurity resiliency coordinator. Tapping into his experience with Air Force cyber operations, Col. Hioki oversees cybersecurity and cyber resiliency matters, including economic, education and infrastructure security. He also was vital to the creation of the Po‘oihe Cyber Security Exercise between the state of Hawaii, the National Guard and industry to rehearse cybersecurity responses. 

Many of the state’s efforts urge industry, government and military experts to share knowledge and serve as mentors for programs that teach STEM principles and cybersecurity skills to young students. Specific efforts integrate Hawaii’s military, education and industry organizations to introduce STEM and cybersecurity to the next generation. 

Two programs, for example, leverage service members to serve as mentors and volunteers during robotics competitions for students. The concept of robotics involves all the major STEM disciplines and moves theory into world application—letting students experience their creations. The nonprofit Friends of Hawaii Robotics manages nine robotics programs statewide, including FIRST Robotics and VEX Robotics competitions. FIRST Robotics boasts impressive results in fostering STEM skills and a lifelong passion for science: Almost 90 percent of FIRST alumni are in STEM fields as students or professionals. VEX students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots and score the most points possible in qualification and elimination matches and skills challenges. 

In tandem with these efforts, Hawaii is working to introduce cybersecurity training to students earlier—establishing CyberPatriot teams at high schools and starting programs at the middle school level. The Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot, a national youth cyber education program featuring the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, is open to all high schools and middle schools in the nation as well as JROTC units, Civil Air Patrol composite or cadet squadrons and Naval Sea Cadet Corps units. Hawaii has a total of 53 teams registered across the state. In 2015, the Mililani JROTC team took top honors in the state and narrowly missed earning a spot in the national championships in Washington, D.C., finishing third in its division.

Grants and funding from a variety sources also support STEM injection into school curricula. For example, Project Lead the Way is improving STEM representation for K-12 students and teachers. The national program provided nearly $2.2 million in funding to help 48 Hawaii schools. The idea is to shift STEM activities from extracurricular pursuits to a fully integrated educational experience. Upon entering college, students ideally will have developed a passion for STEM disciplines and pursue degrees and eventual careers in these fields

At the collegiate level, Hawaii universities are incorporating cybersecurity actively into their curricula. Educators at UH–West Oahu realized the importance of improving the cyber talent pool in Hawaii and partnered with industry and government to create a new Bachelor of Applied Science in information security and assurance (BAS-ISA). This is the first public institution in Hawaii as well as the Pacific region offering this type of degree. The development of the degree program demonstrates a critical capability to link multiple facets of the community to identify economic needs and create a sustainable work force plan. 

In 2015, UH at Manoa achieved a significant milestone in becoming a premier institution for cybersecurity. The NSA and the Department of Homeland Security designated the school as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R). This prestigious designation will help attract students interested in cybersecurity degrees and retain homegrown talent, supporting the local economy. 

The UH System also supports cyber knowledge through all stages of student development with the GenCyber program. Last summer, UH, in partnership with the University of Alaska, the National Science Foundation and the NSA, hosted the first GenCyber Camp in Hawaii. The program’s goals are to help all students understand correct and safe online behavior; increase interest in cybersecurity and diversity of the nation’s cybersecurity work force; and improve teaching methods for delivering cybersecurity content in K-12 computer science curricula. 

In the past year, Hawaii also has made significant progress as a site for startups and accelerator programs. In 2015, UH’s XLR8UH was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as one of the nation’s most elite accelerators during the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. To date, 11 companies have graduated from the program, and the SBA has provided more than $4 million in follow-on funding. Overall, Honolulu can boast three incubators, five accelerators, six investment funds, six startup-focused organizations and three co-working spaces. Flowing through all this is $50 million to $100 million in capital, according to estimates from Sultan Ventures, one of the accelerators. As Hawaii becomes a tech startup hub, the military can capitalize on small local businesses to create capabilities for cyber warfighters. 

Another example of cooperation between the state, military and industry is the Pooihe cyber exercise, now in its fourth year. The exercise is sponsored by the Hawaii National Guard and was integrated into Vigilant Guard 2015, an annual regional exercise, and Makani Pahili 2015, an annual state hurricane preparedness exercise. Networks were developed in coordination with UH and hosted in the university’s Information Technology Center. In the cyber exercise scenario, a Category 4 hurricane has swept through the state, paving the way for a pandemic outbreak and a cybersecurity attack. Addressing cybersecurity within the hurricane exercise begins to expand the doctrine for Defense Support of Civil Authorities to which the National Guard is uniquely positioned to provide. The Pooihe exercise also provides an opportunity to strengthen Hawaii’s international relationships. Last year’s exercise marks the second time individuals from Hitachi of Japan have participated. 

Yet, the state has room for improvement. According to a 2015 WalletHub study assessing STEM careers in the top 100 metropolitan regions in the United States, Hawaii ranked in the bottom five overall and was the worst-ranked for median wage for STEM workers and housing affordability. Yet Hawaii as a whole is embracing the need for change and continues to pursue opportunities to diversify its economic pillars. Hawaii Gov. David Ige noted in his January State of the State address his proposal to provide $30 million in funding to innovative industries over the next six years. Additionally, USA Funds granted $4.6 million to the University of Hawaii Foundation with the purpose of addressing STEM deficits to create a statewide work force solution. This infusion of cash, along with educational and other initiatives, sets Hawaii up for a major STEM-based economic boom.

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