This article has been updated since its original publication.
The University System of Georgia signed an agreement earlier this month with the U.S. Army Cyber Center that will allow active duty and reserve military members to work toward a degree in cyber fields at several of Georgia’s universities during their service.
The agreement affects military members who are stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, which houses the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence. The Army intends for the program to help fill over 11,000 open cyber jobs in the state, both inside and outside the armed forces.
According to the USG, the agreement includes Kennesaw State, the University of North Georgia, Columbus State University, Middle Georgia State University and Augusta University, all of which are designated as National Security Agency Centers of Academic Excellence.
The partnership is meant to allow military members to receive college credit for certain courses based on their experiences of duty, providing them a way to earn their degrees with less time spent in class, according to the USG.
Tristan Denley, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs of the USG, praised the deal, saying that it “allows the full educational resources of the USG to be brought to bear through these institutions in the development of the Army’s cyber warriors.”
Over 16,000 active military personnel work at Fort Gordon. Most of the units there are already involved with the cyber center to some capacity, but the fort also serves several other military purposes.
By making higher education more accessible to full-time members of the armed forces, the Army hopes to make more of the state’s workforce qualified to fill the growing number of open cyber specialist jobs. Including Georgia’s 11,000 open positions, there are more than 300,000 unfilled cyber jobs across the United States as of 2018, according to CyberSeek. By 2021, the number is expected to reach about 3.5 million worldwide, according to a Cybersecurity Ventures report.
The lack of skilled cybersecurity workers has potentially catastrophic effects on both businesses and government entities. According to FOX 28, 60 percent of businesses that suffer hacks are closed within two years. In February 2018, the cities of Savannah and Hinesville were both subjected to cyber attacks that took some government systems offline.
The next month, Atlanta suffered a ransomware attack that forced the city’s government to shut down several of its digital services, including sites that allowed residents to pay their bills, according to FOX 28. With the agreement between the USG and the U.S. Army, the organizations hope to reduce the state’s collective vulnerability to these kinds of attacks.