With $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the University of Arizona will create the country's first Bachelor of Applied Science in intelligence and information operations. The new degree will be offered beginning this fall.
The funding accompanied the DIA's designation of the UA Bachelor of Applied Science in intelligence studies program as an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence. Only eight grants were awarded nationally, with the UA earning the highest score. This designation follows one recently given by the National Security Agency, which designated the UA program in cyber operations as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, one of only 21 in the country.
"The Department of Defense and its intelligence community partners have begun to merge their cyber, intelligence and information operations capabilities to counter new threats," Linda Denno, head of the UA Department of Applied Sciences, said. "We are creating a degree program to mirror these capabilities and our proposal to the DIA leveraged the successful model we implemented for our cyber program."
The five-year grant from the DIA will be used to transform the intelligence studies degree program – which is based at UA South, the UA's campus in Sierra Vista – into the new intelligence and information operations degree program.
"This funding allows the University of Arizona to position itself as a national leader in cybersecurity and intelligence gathering education," said UA President Robert C. Robbins. "Students graduating with degrees in cybersecurity and cyberoperations are in such demand that we have quadrupled the size of the program in just four years. Our students in this program have jobs before they graduate because of the quality of the education they receive and the need for their knowledge and skills throughout industry and government."
The DIA grant program is geared toward giving students the skills needed to access recruitment opportunities and become more competitive for intelligence internships and jobs. Key components of the program are critical language development, cultural immersion and integration of STEM courses into the intelligence curriculum.
The UA – which is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and has strong study abroad programs as well as critical language offerings – will use part of the funding to cover tuition and travel costs for qualified students.
As the principal investigator on the grant, Jason Denno, director of cyber operations at UA South, will focus on integrating cyber and information operations content into the new degree program. The cyber operations degree program, which he founded, is based at the Sierra Vista campus and is taught both traditionally and online. Roughly 326 students are enrolled in the program, which offers three degree options: an engineering track with a security focus; a defense and forensics track; and a policy track, combining the technical aspects of the engineering and forensics tracks with studies in law, political science and intelligence.
The big difference from most other cyber programs, he said, is the skills-heavy, hands-on work done by UA students in the Cyber Virtual Learning Environment, which includes a virtual city called CyberApolis, as well as advanced honeynet, forensics, malware and internet of things labs. The content for the new degree in intelligence and information operations will be incorporated into the virtual learning environment as part of the grant, providing students with the benefits of the technologically advanced experience.
The co-principal investigator on the DIA grant is Tamal Bose, head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He will be responsible for integrating additional science, technology, engineering and math content as well as mentoring students and faculty involved with the grant.