U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty, Jr., Wednesday  (April 11) announced that the University has been selected as one of nine new”Centers for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education”by the National Security Agency (NSA).  Only 23 higher education institutions across the country have received this unique recognition.

“This selection further establishes West Virginia University (WVU) as a national leader in the education of young men and women in high-tech fields,”Byrd said.

“As computer technology continues to develop, the nation will need well-trained technicians and programmers to protect the information on these electronic networks.  WVU has created a dynamic program to address this critical priority,”Byrd stated.

“WVU is in very select company as one of only 23 universities across the country to receive this academic distinction,”said WVU President Hardesty. ”Our degree programs in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineeringwhich include courses in computing and network security, encoding, and decoding and software engineeringhave really put us on the map in terms of helping to fill critical shortages of highly skilled information systems security personnel.”

The NSA established the Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education Program in an effort to promote higher education in information assurance and increase the number of individuals with this expertise in various academic and employment disciplines, especially in fields where there is an acute shortage of trained information systems security personnel.

Designations were granted following a rigorous review of university applications by a review board composed of representatives from the NSA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as members of the National Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education representing both industry and academia.  The board assessed applications against established criteria that measure the depth and maturity of information assurance programs and are rooted in National Security Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Committee (NSTISSC) Training Standards.  The NSTISSC is an intergovernmental organization that sets policy for the security of national security systems.

“WVU recognizes that training and education on the higher education level are important solutions in maintaining and defending America’s cyberspace.  We are honored by this National Security Agency designation and proud to be a Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education,”Hardesty said.

Byrd has been working with WVU and with the Department of Defense to develop a new approach to information assurance.  Byrd’s efforts have focused on the development of biometrics technologytechnology that utilizes unique human characteristics to verify an individual’s identityto improve the security of computer and electronic networks.  Already, the Defense Department has opened an interim Biometrics Fusion Center in Harrison County which tests new commercial biometrics technology.  Additionally, during a recent visit arranged by Byrd, WVU officials showcased their information assurance initiatives for U.S. Army Lieutenant General Peter Cuviello, who leads the Army’s biometrics efforts.

“The burgeoning relationship between WVU and the Defense Department has the potential to create new breakthroughs in biometrics and computer network technologies.  I applaud President Hardesty and the WVU community for their forward-thinking approaches,”Byrd said.

The NSA will award the designation to WVU at the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education on May 23.