Cybersecurity Bills Look to Strengthen the Partnership Between the Government and Universities; Big Incentives for Cybersecurity Students

17 07 2012

Currently, the House of Representatives and Senate are offering up bills to enhance the United States’ cybersecurity posture. Although these bills differ in their language, they all share the overarching goal of protecting the country’s critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. One method proposed for strengthening the United States’ cybersecurity posture is to incentivize and partner with institutions of higher learning to develop methods for securing critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. The bills specifically discussed within this blog are S. 3342, “Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Educations, Information, and Technology Act of 2012”, or “SECURE IT 2012[1];” S. 2105, “Cybersecurity Act of 2012 [2]; H.R. 3674, “Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Effectiveness Act of 2011” or the “PRECISE Act of 2011 [3]”; and H.R. 2096, “Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2012 [4].”

One might ask the question, why is it so important for Congress to foster partnerships with universities? Additionally, have these partnerships worked in the past? How do these bills incentivize universities, faculty, and students to participate? Finally, what benefits are derived by the critical infrastructure sectors?

Examples of Innovation Arising From University Research

In Testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, on June 27, 2012, Dr. James Siedow, of Duke University, testified to the benefits of the research partnership between Duke University and the federal government [5]. Duke University is a leader in biomedical research, and they receive funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to develop new methods of treating diseases [5]. In the biomedical research arena, Duke has been very successful, and a testament to their success is the $24 million dollars they received in FY 2011 from patent royalties [5]. The payment royalties demonstrate that Duke was able to take research from concept to application, and this benefits society as a whole.

In the same hearing, Dr. Jeffrey Seemann, the Vice President for Research, at Texas A&M University, stated the value of the partnership between the federal government and the research university. Dr. Seemann stated, “…shortly following World War II, the nation’s leaders identified our institutions of higher education as the rooted and ready-made growth-vehicles for moving the nation forward, especially in the arena of strategic research and development (R&D) [6].” In Dr. Seemann’s statement, the true value of the research university is illustrated. The research university has an underlying infrastructure that enables it to adapt to new areas of inquiry relatively quickly, and take more than one idea from concept to application simultaneously. Many invaluable inventions had their foundations laid by groundbreaking research from universities. Some of the world’s most valuable inventions rooted in university research are “computers, MRI, rocket fuel, radar, and synthetic insulin [6].” Last, one example, that is close to home for all of us Carnegie Mellon University Students and Faculty, is the MRI technique developed by Dr. Ahrens to monitor real-time gene expression [7]. In addition, Dr. Ahrens’ approach allow doctors to monitor neural stem cells non-invasively, and may help doctors to develop better treatments for brain injuries and strokes [7]. Therefore, the research university is a great partnership for the government to invest in and achieve viable, applicable, and real world results.

Current Bills Encourages Collaboration Through Incentives


In Section 401 of S.3342, the goals for high computing research, networking, and development are described, and within these goals the federal government is mandated to collaborate with research universities [1]. A specific goal within Section 401 is “fostering the transfer of research and development results into new technologies and applications for the benefit of society [1].” The aforementioned goal is a perfect description of what research universities continuously strive to accomplish, and the earlier discussion of Carnegie Mellon and Duke’s activities illustrate this.

In addition to collaborating with research universities, S.3342 allows the National Science Foundation (NSF) to use its existing programs to encourage and improve networking and information technology education [1]. An additional incentive to promote interest in cybersecurity, among prospective students, is the scholarship for service provision [1]. The scholarship for service provision will pay a student’s tuition, and possibly give them a stipend, to study cybersecurity, but the student has to work for the federal government upon graduation [1].

Similar to S.3342, S.2105 provides for collaboration between universities and the government [2]. However, S.2105 elaborates in much greater detail how the partnership and programs to be established should transpire. For example, In Section 501 programs for secure coding, and cybersecurity test beds capable of realistic real-time monitoring of cyber attacks and defense are established [2]. Additionally, the Secretary of Education is tasked with creating a cyber safety, cybersecurity, and cyber ethics curriculum for all college students [2]. The incentives provide for in S.2105 are the cyber scholarship for service, national cybersecurity competitions for grades 9 through post baccalaureate degrees, and Internships [2]. S.2105 creates more incentives, or at least enumerates them, to encourage students to pursue cybersecurity education and career paths.

In the House of Representatives, H.R. 3674 further codifies Congress’ desire to include academia in helping to solve the country’s complex cybersecurity issues, and Section 226 states,  “…facilitating information sharing, interactions, and collaborations among and between Federal agencies, State and local governments, the private sector, academia, and international partners…[3].” Although, this particular piece of legislation does not provide for any explicit incentives, however, it does include and recognize the need for academia’s input in combating the cybersecurity deficiencies that currently expose the country’s infrastructure to cyber attacks.

However, H.R. 2096 more than makes up for the lack of explicit incentives found in H.R. 3674. For instance, Congress desires to build computer network security research centers, H.R. 2096 appropriates $4,500,000 for their development in 2013, 2014, and 2015 [4]. There are more gold nuggets where that came from, and here is a list of them:

  • Computer and network security capacity building grants – $19,000,000 per year 2013-2015;
  • Scientific and Advanced Technology Act – $2,500,000 per year 2013-2015;
  • Graduate traineeships in computer and network security – $24,000,000 per year 2013-2015;
  • Grants to universities to support faculty development [4].

All of these incentives are geared toward incentivizing research universities to expand their programs, encourage more students to enter the cybersecurity field, and strengthen the partnership between the federal government and universities. In addition to the aforementioned incentives, H.R. 2096 provides for a cyber scholarship for federal service program, and this bill goes into the most detailed description of the program [4]. For example, a student pursuing a bachelor’s of master’s degree in a cybersecurity related field might qualify for two years tuition paid for, and a competitive stipend during the two years [4]. For a doctoral degree-seeking student in cybersecurity, the time frame for tuition and the stipend eligibility increases to three years [4]. Additionally, recipients of the scholarships qualify for internships within the federal IT workforce [4]. These incentives are further evidence our legislators understand the value of the research university’s role in developing cybersecurity leaders and experts. The development of leaders in the cybersecurity field is instrumental in securing the country from cyber threats.


In conclusion, it is important for Congress to partner with universities, and leverage the large technical infrastructure already in place, resident experts (i.e. faculty members), and the steady influx of intellectual capital. The partnership between the government and universities has already produced many societal benefits through their collaborative efforts. Collaborative efforts between the government and universities have been successful in the past, as exhibited by the invention of the MRI, radar, rocket fuel, and etc. It is right for Congress to recognize that any improvements to the United State’s cybersecurity posture can only be accomplished effectively with the inclusion of the universities as part of their plan.

The benefits derived from such a partnership will greatly benefit the critical infrastructure sectors through innovation and enhancements to their systems and networks. In addition, enhanced cybersecurity tools and protocols will assist critical infrastructure sectors protecting their physical infrastructure, logical infrastructure, proprietary information, and national security information. Only by focusing the brightest minds on the complex problem of cyber insecurity can innovative solutions take root and grow, and the seedbed of this innovation is the research university.

Last, the seedbed of innovation can grow nothing without planting the right seeds, and those seeds are the students. Therefore, the incentives, like scholarships and stipends, will make cybersecurity a more attractive field for prospective students to pursue. Furthermore, students pursuing scholarships for service programs have the chance to reap large rewards, in the form of less educational debt, real-world project experiences, internships, stipends, and an instant career upon graduation. Upon passage of any of these bills the prospective cybersecurity student will be greatly incentivized to pursue a cybersecurity education, and the government will benefit by having more employees with strong cybersecurity skill sets. In the end, collaboration between the government and universities is a win-win situation for the government, universities, and students.


  1. S. 3342 112th Congress (2012).
  2. S. 2105 112th Congress (2012).
  3. H.R. 3674 112th Congress (2011).
  4. H.R. 2096 112th Congress (2012).
  5. Siewdow, J. (June 27, 2012). The Role of the Research Universities in Securing America’s Future Prosperity: Challenges and Expectations. Testimony. United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Retrieved 1 July 2012,
  6. Seemann, J. (June 27, 2012). The Role of the Research Universities in Securing America’s Future Prosperity: Challenges and Expectations. Testimony. United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Retrieved 1 July 2012,
  7. Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.). ‘Reporter’ Technology. Retrieved July 5, 2012,



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