Wes Bush, the CEO of Northrop Grumman, one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, praised Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for its ability to produce work-ready engineers and called on other CEOs to partner with the school and others like it.
“Getting it right in higher education matters. Collectively, I believe, we in industry have an obligation to make sure we get it right together. Cal Poly gets it,” Bush said.
Bush was on campus Jan. 23 to dedicate the Cal Poly Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab, a 32-workstation facility that the company helped the school build. The lab, which features a direct connection to Northrop Grumman’s cybersecurity group and a server room that mimics what students will find in the real world, is the physical centerpiece of the new Cal Poly Cybersecurity Center, a suite of courses and facilities.
Bush said programs like Cal Poly’s will be crucial in meeting the need for experts in cybersecurity, which he called a “critical and growing challenge” that affects nearly all facets of modern America.
“This isn’t just about national security. Fundamentally, it’s about economic security,” he said. “Clearly there’s a lot of technology involved in this, but technology is not what makes it happen. It’s people.”
The Northrup Grumman Foundation provided funds for building the lab, and Dale Griffiths, chief scientist in the Northrop Grumman’s Intelligence System Division in McLean, Va., set up and configured the lab. But the ongoing connection with the firm is what will make Cal Poly a national leader in security training, said Jeffrey Armstrong, Cal Poly’s president.
“Cybersecurity by its very nature is an exercise in staying ahead of the curve. The threats evolve faster than the textbooks,” Armstrong said. “This opportunity is unprecedented in higher education and particularly unheard-of at the undergraduate level. … This is much more than a state-of-the-art lab.”
As previously reported the by the Business Times, the lab is part of a broader cybersecurity effort at Cal Poly that will play out over the next several years as courses are added. In addition to producing cybersecurity specialists, the school hopes that all of its engineers who do computer coding will have basic training on the topic.
Cal Poly’s cybersecurity programs have also been supported by Raytheon, Parsons Corp., McAffee, Boeing and Pacific Gas & Electric. Bush, the Northrop Grumman CEO, encouraged companies to contribute to higher education with a broader focus than their own immediate needs.
“Many times companies look at working with a university as a way of locking in a partnership, locking in a talent base. That’s not the way it works. We need to come together,” Bush said. “We’d love to be able to hire every one of the students, but we know we’ll have to compete for them. This is going to be the place where people come to look for talent.”