The Naval Academy's dream of a building a center to teach cyber warfare took a big step closer to reality, with $120 million included in next year's federal budget to fund its construction, according to a Thursday news release.

The budget, signed by President Obama this week, fully granted the academy's request for funding in fiscal year 2015, said a release from the office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

"Through hands-on learning in a real-world environment, we are preparing our midshipmen to be future cyber warriors that will protect our country from cyber terrorists, spies and thugs," said Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and who serves on the academy's Board of Visitors.

The new building would be the home for the academy's Center for Cyber Security Studies, which would include classrooms, research labs, lecture halls and sensitive compartmented information facility space.

Students would have access to sensitive documents, making it 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," Capt. Paul Tortora, director of the academy's cyber department, told Navy Times in June.

"The class won't be every day in the [SCIF], 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," he added.

Thirty mids from the Class of 2016, the first cohort able to declare, are scheduled to graduate with degrees in cyber operations. Sixty students from the Class of 2017 have already selected, Tortora said.

The academy is expected to break ground on the building in 2016. First, the academy plans to build a new parking structure for the campus in 2015, to replace the spaces lost to the cyber building, the planned site of which is currently a parking lot.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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