The demand for cyber talent continues to outpace the number of qualified personnel with the requisite security clearances, so the National Security Agency is partnering with select universities to offer curriculum to train “quality cyber operators.”

Reuters reported on the partnership this week, and noted that out of 20 universities to apply, only four made the cut. Dakota University, the Naval Postgraduate School, Northeastern University and the University of Tulsa will now have the distinction of being Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

“We found a lot of schools weren’t emerging with the technology, weren’t keeping up,” said Captain Jill Newton, who leads NSA’s cyber training and education programs.

The NSA wouldn’t be partnering with universities if it could find the kind of qualified talent it needed on the street. Unfortunately, while more universities are increasing cyber offerings few are offering the kind of aggressive program needed to truly go after cyber criminals in offensive operations. The careers it’s looking to fill are so sensitive the NSA isn’t publicly releasing what positions it is looking to fill, but they do involve one popular buzzword – cybersecurity.

And while application developers continue to be in demand in tech hiring writ large, the U.S. government doesn’t need individuals who can build cool iPhone apps, it needs individuals who can break into programs overseas without leaving a trail. Cyber spy training is generally not on the syllabus of most universities however, which is just one of the reasons for the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Ethical issues have prevented many universities from offering the cyber skills necessary, but the NSA is emphasizing it’s not asking universities to teach hacking, it’s asking them to train students on the technical science they’ll need for offensive cyber ops – the NSA will train them on the specifics of cyber intelligence once they’re on the job.

The NSA isn’t the only organization that is finding itself without the trained personnel it needs. Lisa Lee, information assurance program manager, Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems for the U.S. Army, told an audience at FOSE that the Army has recently relaxed certification standards because it did not have enough personnel with even the basic IT certifications required. DoD Directive 8570 required government employees and contract personnel to obtain certain industry certifications before gaining access to some DoD systems.

Expect more government agencies and organizations to partner with universities and academic centers in order to get the right skilled talent, prepared to work on the government’s most secret systems.

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer