Advancing US investment in K-12 cybersecurity education is a matter of national security

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As our nation faces rising threats from increasingly sophisticated cyber adversaries, there has never been a more urgent need to fill the cybersecurity talent pipeline. Last year, cybercrime cost the U.S. $6.9 billion and experts predict global cybercrime costs to grow to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Cyber attacks from malicious actors are a serious threat to both our economic stability and national security, as we have seen through the increase of cyber intrusions against critical infrastructure sectors in recent years. At the same time, there is a significant workforce gap which leaves the United States in an even more vulnerable position.

Currently, there are more than 700,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States. To date, we have failed to adequately invest in educational and workforce development to address the growing cyber threat, but there is a solution. We can ensure that the next generation of Americans is better equipped to take on the evolving threat landscape.

Less than half of K-12 students today are getting any cyber-related education. It is imperative that we move to correct this by introducing our children to cybersecurity education as early as kindergarten and investing in K-12 student cybersecurity literacy. By incorporating cybersecurity into our school curriculum, alongside core subjects like math and science, we will be able to bring up the next generation with the skills necessary to fill the cybersecurity workforce gap, as well as protect themselves and their families from cybercrimes.

The cybersecurity incidents making headlines make it clear that advancing cybersecurity education is a matter of national security. In fact, the Office of the National Cyber Director has stressed the importance of educating students on cybersecurity early to create awareness about these career paths and address this national security imperative. Earlier this month, bipartisan bicameral members of Congress came together to designate June as the National Cybersecurity Education Month in order to advance cybersecurity literacy among our nation’s K-12 students, prepare them for cybersecurity careers, and involve more educators and the public in this effort. I was proud to lead this effort in the House.

Increased awareness on the national level is great progress, but more must be done. I am calling on my colleagues in Congress to join me in this effort. One step we must take is supporting K-12 cybersecurity education programs in the federal government that serve to address our nation’s cybersecurity talent gap. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, for example, Congress dedicated $6.8 million for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP) to enhance cybersecurity education, training, and more. Through this program, DHS’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) provides comprehensive K-12 cyber education training tools and resources for both teachers and students. Congress should continue funding this program so it can expand and achieve its goal of reaching every K-12 student across the country. In fact, I’ve introduced a bill to do just that, the Cybersecurity Grants for Schools Act of 2022, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to follow suit.

The CETAP program has equipped more than 25,000 teachers across the country to teach K-12 cybersecurity curriculum, reaching more than 3.4 million students nationwide. Yet with more than 50 million students enrolled in K-12 programs in any given year, we are only scratching the surface. With more funding, the number of students exposed to both the skills and career paths associated with cybersecurity would grow exponentially.

As Congress works through its annual appropriations process, I urge my colleagues to remain steadfast in the face of mounting cyber threats. Without adequate funding invested in K-12 cybersecurity education, we risk falling even further behind on the global stage and in the Great Power Competition with Russia and China. By prioritizing K-12 cybersecurity education and training development, we are advancing our national security interests, preparing our future workforce to be more cyber resilient, and equipping them with the skills needed to keep our nation safe and secure now and for future generations. 

Andrew Garbarino represents New York’s 2nd District and serves as the ranking member the of the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation Subcommittee.

Tags cybersecurity

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