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Planned cyber center includes USNA's first classified facility

Jun. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Naval Academy has unveiled plans for a $120 million cyber building, seen here in an artist's rendering, that would house the school's first classified facility.
The Naval Academy has unveiled plans for a $120 million cyber building, seen here in an artist's rendering, that would house the school's first classified facility. (Naval Academy)
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A state-of-the-art cyber operations center planned for the Naval Academy would allow midshipmen to view classified information and watch cyber attacks as they happen, said Capt. Paul Tortora, director of academy’s Center for Cyber Security Studies.

If Congress approves the $120 million needed to build the center as part of the fiscal 2015 appropriations bill, construction is expected to take about two years staring in late 2016, according to the academy. The 206,000-square-foot building will feature the academy’s first classified facility.

“Right now, without the classified classroom space, the midshipmen do not get any instruction at the Naval Academy in the classified aspects of cyber and related domains,” Tortora said. “The class won’t be every day in the [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility], I could envision the class that I teach, cybersecurity, I could say, ‘Tomorrow, we’ll meet in the SCIF to teach case studies or other events.’ It will allow things to be done, talked about, shown that we can’t do now.”

Midshipmen are required to take two cyber courses that cover topics including identifying risks and network defense, according to the academy. In addition, the first midshipmen to pursue the academy’s cyber operations major are expected to graduate in 2016.

Currently, 30 of the roughly 1,100 midshipmen in the Class of 2016 are majoring in cyber operations, Tortora said. In the next class, 60 midshipmen have selected cyber operations as their major.

“We’ve got a lot of momentum in the cyber-education realm, but we don’t have an adequate footprint in the academic facilities for housing all of those new courses [and] developing new ones,” Tortora said. “What this new facility will do, it will allow us to house all of those efforts under one roof.”

The cyber operations center would give midshipmen a place where they could conduct mock cyber attacks and watch actual attacks take place, he said.

“I envision a room where you’ve got multiple workstations, maybe some flat-screens, and you can watch attacks as they’re happening to the business sector, private sector and possibly the classified side so you can see traffic coming in and maybe a denial-of-service attack; you can see spikes in the number of hits to a web page or to a banking service ... or to a control system,” Tortora said. “Day-to-day, there’s always some type of cyber attack, so it would be a great tool for these future naval officers to see things as they’re coming.”

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