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Applying to the National Centers of Excellence Program in Cyber Operations

NSA is pleased to announce the establishment of a National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Operations Program.  The CAE-Cyber Operations Program will follow the same time line as the Centers for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education/Research programs (, with applications accepted from four-year colleges and graduate-level universities annually by 15 January each year. 

The following outlines the steps to apply to become a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Application Process

  1. Complete and return the CAE-Cyber Operations application form and the Knowledge Unit (KU) Alignment Worksheet to no later than 11:59 PM January 15, 2014. In addition to the completed form, applicant institutions must identify the degree program(s) in which the Cyber Operations curriculum is based and include the title of the degree and sample course schedule.
    1. CAE-Cyber Operations applicant institutions must meet the defined program criteria AND have active courses that cover the mandatory knowledge units and at least 60 percent of the optional knowledge units stated in the academic content requirements. This is accomplished by identifying courses believed to cover the knowledge units as described in the academic content requirements, and showing the alignment of courses to mandatory/optional knowledge units in the Knowledge Unit (KU) Alignment Worksheet. There may be multiple courses listed against one knowledge unit. A course description and syllabi that contain a weekly schedule of topics should be included in the application package for all courses that have been identified in the KU Alignment Worksheet as contributing to meeting the academic requirements of the CAE-Cyber Operations program.
    2. As part of the application process, you are agreeing to participate in an in-person, on-site curricula review of courses satisfying the required and optional knowledge units as part of the application review and selection process.  You are also agreeing, if designated a CAE-Cyber Operations institution, to participate in NSA-sponsored Summer Seminars as part of the program.  
  2. A panel of NSA subject matter experts (SMEs) will be convened to review the applications and determine whether the applicant has sufficiently met the program criteria and demonstrated alignment to academic content requirements. From this panel review, applicants will be selected to move into the second phase of the application process, consisting of an on-site, in-depth curriculum review. All applicants will be notified of whether or not they have advanced into Phase 2 of the application process.
  3. Those applicant institutions that sufficiently meet the program criteria and demonstrate an alignment to the academic content requirements will be contacted to arrange an on-site visit by NSA SMEs for an in-person curricula review of the specific courses that contribute to meeting the mandatory and optional Cyber Operations knowledge units. During this visit, the NSA SMEs will meet with the faculty members who teach the courses identified in the alignment matrix to discuss the material covered in the courses based on the syllabi submitted, including labs and exercises, any documentation showing how courses are kept updated and policies regarding course updates, and documentation supporting national/regional accreditation (if applicable). The extent to which the Cyber Operations program is of an interdisciplinary nature will also be reviewed, along with faculty involvement in cyber operations-related research projects. Each institution will be notified individually to arrange a date and time for the review and will be provided guidance on how to schedule and prepare for the second phase review.
  4. NOTE:  Information on scoring can be found in the Criteria document.

  5. Notification of award of CAE designation will be provided no later than 15 May, along with an invitation to attend the Colloquium Information Systems Security Education (CISSE) for presentation of the CAE-Cyber Operations certificate.
  6. For assistance or questions, please email the AskCAECyberOps alias.
  7. CAE-Cyber Ops Timeline

    Application Submission                 NLT 11:59pm EST, January 15

    Review of Applications                 January 15 – February 28

    Notification to Applicants             March 1

    Curriculum Review Visits              March-April

    Final Determinations                    May 15

    CISSE/Certificate Presentation     June

Future Re-designations

Re-designations will be required every 5 years with the expectation that the designated programs will show improvement vis-à-vis the requirements and criteria against which they were rated, as well as meet any new requirements or criteria imposed in years prior to the re-designation.


Date Posted: Jan 10, 2012 | Last Modified: Jan 12, 2014 | Last Reviewed: Jan 12, 2014