Air Force Academy unveils new network security major

Cadets will be able to take new courses in computer forensics and reverse software engineering, as well as political science and strategy.

As cyber operations continue to become an increasingly important part of the military, the services are looking for ways to train its members in the art of cyber warfare.

The Air Force Academy has recently announced the creation of a new computer network security major designed to help cadets gain a better understanding of the cyberspace domain and the Air Force’s cyber strategies.

The major is being created despite the fact that the academy has been cutting down on available areas of study. Earlier this year, the Air Force announced that the academy would be eliminating 10 academic majors and cut three academic courses from graduation requirements as a result of the fiscal 2015 budget.

"The Air Force Academy is committed to producing highly qualified officers to serve in cyber career fields," Dr. Martin Carlisle, head of the academy’s Computer Science Department, said in an Air Force release. "This is a time when the academy is reducing majors, which shows how important we think this mission field is."

In addition to the newly created major, the Air Force Academy currently offers disciplinary majors in computer engineering and computer science. New classes are being created for the new computer network security major, which will feature a mix of technical and qualitative classes.

Cadets will take courses that will teach them reverse software engineering and the analysis of malware, viruses and other malicious codes. Meanwhile, another course would feature computer forensics, which involves tracing attacks, figuring out how an attack was carried out, and gathering evidence.

The new major also will feature classes on strategy, political science and law.

The academy’s curriculum is set up in a way that would allow cadets interested in the major to decide midway through their academic careers. Cadets can use the time to choose which of the three computer science majors is best for them, said Carlisle. 

Military academic institutions have been establishing new cyber programs as the domain continues to grow, many of which specifically focus on the conduct of cyber warfare. Earlier this year, the Army Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., established the Army Cyber Institute, a new cyber warfare research institute aimed at tackling tough doctrinal and operational questions of the cyber realm.