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Feds' cyber challenge to recruit net security team

Now we know how defense secretary Robert Gates is going to find all those security experts. Last month, he proposed to completely overhaul the U.S. military in a widely publicized speech. One of the many changes he recommended was increasing the number of cyber security experts that the Department of Defense (DoD) can train each year from 80 now to 200 in 2011.

Very few government programs are forecast to grow to 250 percent of their current size over the next two years, but there's a clear need for cyber security at the DoD.

After reports of numerous problems, the DoD has begun to reach out to the private sector to improve contractors' security with a program called the Defense Industrial Base or DIB.

The DoD is also working on its own security. It released a Request for Information (RFI) for an e-mail security system that would protect 5 million users across 700 domains.

Now comes an unsubstantiated report from Forbes with a tabloid-style headline: Pentagon Seeks High School Hackers.

Read on, and you'll see that the DoD is doing for recruiting what it's already been doing for security: reaching out to private sector partners and synthesizing a new program, to be called the Cyber Challenge, out of several existing contests that are aimed at reaching out to high school and college students, such as the Digital Forensics Challenge that has been hosted by the DoD's Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) for the past three years and the SANS Institute's essay to demonstrate leadership capabilities.

In the past, winners got tickets to a defense industry conference, but with the new focus on cyber security, the DoD is offering impressive internships at such keys to the national defense as the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the Department of Energy, and even the top secret National Security Agency, according to Forbes.

Perhaps you're wondering why the Department of Energy is on the same list as the NSA? That's easy. The cyber security needs of the Department of Energy became clear last month with news that spies had penetrated the national grid.

The program addresses real needs and the DoD is clearly eager to train some of the best American technology students to serve the country. Expect an announcement soon, perhaps next week.

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