My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 23, 2022

The CGA and the new operational domain

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley

To enhance the Coast Guard’s capabilities in the cyber realm and to protect the service against malicious cyberattacks, the Coast Guard Academy will soon commission its first Cyber Systems graduates later this academic year.  

Cyberattacks pose one of the most significant threats to the nation’s economic and military power since World War II. These attacks not only can be devastating but have the potential to exploit infrastructure, information systems, networks, and the personal devices we rely on daily. 

Now more than ever, cybersecurity is important as new challenges present themselves in this operational domain. As these threats grow and increase, cyber-attacks have outpaced threats and attacks from the physical domain. 

With the Coast Guard always looking to acquire the best and brightest talent possible, the Coast Guard Academy instituted a Cyber Systems degree in 2018 to meet the operational and support needs of the service in the cyber domain.  

The Coast Guard leverages the collective innovation of our workforce, government partners, academia, industry, and partner nations to ensure the Coast Guard acquires cyber resilient mission platforms and effective cyber operational capabilities.  

As a service that relies on partnerships, the Coast Guard continually engages in partnerships both domestically and internationally to defend our common goals, reinforce established international norms of behavior in cyberspace, and counter misbehavior of those operating outside of those norms. 

In a January visit to the academy, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), stressed the importance of cybersecurity as an operational domain and the importance of partnerships. The General spoke with senior leadership and cadets about the vitality of cybersecurity in a technically integrated and dependent world.  

“A decade ago, military personnel rotated out of cyber positions frequently, whereas now, the Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy have encouraged professionalization by offering people in this area a specialized cyber-security program, repeat assignments, specialized training, and incentive pay,” said Gen. Nakasone. “This can only make the Coast Guard better equipped to handle day-to-day cyber missions and a stronger member of the U.S. government's cyber team.” 

According to CYBERCOM, the cyber security community is constantly facing new challenges and working to adapt and respond to these challenges in innovative ways.  

As technology progresses, cyberspace becomes more complex than ever before when it comes to threats to our national security and economic strength and stability, therefore CGA Cyber Systems majors are prepared to adapt and face challenges when they enter the world of cyber. 

The Cyber Systems majors at the CGA work with state-of-the-art computing hardware and software that allows for learning and research. Cadets can apply their skills to capstone projects with real impact to the fleet when it comes to cybersecurity, cyber-physical systems, cyber risk management, geospatial intelligence, space, secure software development, and computer and network security.  

“The recent visit by Gen. Nakasone demonstrates our commitment to expose cadets to the multi-agency cyber challenges our nation faces as the Cyber Systems major looks to achieve accreditation with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), and as an NSA National Center of Academic Excellence in 2022” said Lt. Ryan Quarry “Both achievements ensure our alignment with outcomes that endow our cadets with the skills needed to defend our nation in cyber space.” 

The academy also has a Cyber Team, which operates as a club sport team that participates in a variety of organized competitions against other federal service academies such as the NSA’s National Cyber Exercise (NCX). This exercise culminates an unclassified exercise designed to reinforce cyber learning principles taught in the classroom.  

The Cyber Team is open to cadets with an interest in developing high-level defensive and offensive cyber skills, and practices during weekday sports periods and receives required sports credit for participation.