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Academy touts future cyber center, new major

Dec. 3, 2012 - 04:52PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 3, 2012 - 04:52PM  |  
This illustration shows the proposed cyber center, which will cost an estimated $100 million.
This illustration shows the proposed cyber center, which will cost an estimated $100 million. (U.S. Naval Academy)
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The Naval Academy unveiled a design for its future cyber center on Monday and said the school was on track to offer a "cyber operations" major starting for this year's freshman class — the latest signal that cyber warfare will be critical for future conflicts.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy superintendent, told the school's advisory board that retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the military's top officer until last year, feels teaching information warfare is a top priority for future fleet leaders.

"He shares our passion for the essential nature of cyber security and why it must be taught here at the Naval Academy," Miller said Monday.

On a presentation slide, Miller showed the board of visitors a proposal for the new cyber center. The triangular building would be sited between Nimitz Library and the engineering building Rickover Hall, a site currently used as a parking lot. As planned, it would boast 250,000 square feet of floor space and be funded by the government and private donors. Ground-to-roof windows would face the Severn River.

Miller called the image "one vision" of the center and said academy leadership had pitched the site to Navy officials, including the vice chief of naval operations, in recent days in anticipation of garnering funds through the next annual defense bill.

"We're moving with all due dispatch" to get this into the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization act, Miller told the school's board. "We have done extensive briefings throughout the Department of Defense. We're just about at the finish line."

The initial estimate for the cyber center is $100 million, an academy spokeswoman said later, adding that this could change after a "concept development study" wraps up in January.

The academy's advisors were eager to support the proposal and gather votes on Capitol Hill.

"Let's meet or have a conversation after the first of the year about your working what you need to do to achieve the plan," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., one of the four lawmakers at Monday's meeting. "We can make sure it's under discussion or even asked about from the congressional side."

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School officials also reported the results from last week's service assignment night, when graduating midshipmen learned what Navy and Marine Corps branch they'll join after they're commissioned in the spring. Navy pilot remains the most popular choice. And as with years past, one in four mids will enter the Marine Corps. The commandant also noted that 13 women have been chosen for submarines, compared with only eight last year.

"We were asked to provide 10," said Capt. Robert Clark, a former submarine skipper. "We had three other young ladies that we thought would be of value. We sent them for interviews. And in a very unique and rare circumstance, the director of naval nuclear propulsion said, ‘Absolutely, we'll take three more.' So we continue to supply a product that's of value and recognized through the fleet."

These are the community assignments for this year's senior class, handed out on Nov. 28:

• Navy pilot: 235.

• Surface warfare: 226.

• Marine ground: 183.

• Submarines: 134.

• Marine air: 88.

• Naval Flight Officer: 78.

• Surface warfare (nuclear): 31

• SEALs: 27.

• Explosive Ordnance Disposal: 13.

• Restricted line: 38.

• Medical school: 10.

Amid all the news about the cyber center, the service assignments, two new Rhodes Scholars and the victorious women's soccer team (they went 19-2-1 this fall), one circumstance was not lost on the board of visitors: it's Army week.

To do their part to ensure another gridiron defeat for West Point's Black Knights on Saturday, the advisors opened a session of the meeting by belting out: "BEAT ARMY!"

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