‘STEM Corps’ legislation would fill DOD’s gaps in tech talent

Lt. Aaron Van Driessche, warfare tactics instructor at the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) Detachment San Diego pilots the U.S. Navy’s virtual combat curriculum with sailors aboard USS Paul Hamilton inside the newly launched portable simulator, the On Demand Trainer. (U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Millar)

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A new bipartisan bill would create a stream of STEM talent for the Department of Defense by offering tuition assistance in exchange for service in the department.

Two years of tuition coverage would go to graduates who serve four years in the DOD in good standing. Other perks include the potential to work for one of those years with an “industry partner,” according to a release from the bill’s co-sponsors, Reps. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Andy Kim, D-N.J.

The DOD has long struggled to get science, technology, engineering and math talent — including cybersecurity experts — in the door and keep those hires from moving to jobs in the private sector. Members of the Defense Innovation Board have even mused about even establishing a military “cyber academy” modeled after other academies like West Point to address the problem.

“The Department of Defense and defense industry face a critical STEM workforce shortage,”  Banks said in a statement. “We need to attract and recruit young STEM and computer science-oriented staff to work on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and other critical projects to create a more technologically agile national security workforce.”

The idea extends from a report from the Ronald Reagan Institute that included input from Banks and Kim. The report recommended creating a STEM Corps modeled after the ROTC program and the National Guard. Students would be selected through a competitive process to receive full tuition to attend public universities and study specified disciplines related to national security technology, according to the report. The report doesn’t specify how much money Congress should appropriate for the program.

“Being ready for the challenges of tomorrow requires investing in talent and training today,” Kim said. “This program doesn’t just ensure America will continue as a world leader in scientific advancements and military readiness, it will offer much needed opportunities for young people at a time when their economic future has never been more insecure.”

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cybersecurity education, Defense Innovation Board, Department of Defense (DOD), Education, science and technology, STEM, training, workforce
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