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NEWS | May 5, 2022

Texas A&M student team present research findings on cyber challenges to USCYBERCOM

On April 28, five second year graduate students from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University provided their Spring 2022 Capstone out-brief to senior U.S. Cyber Command staff, as well as senior officials in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy and Joint Staff / J5. 

The Capstone was sponsored by the command and supported by Mr. Mike Clark, Deputy Director Plans and Policy in the USCYBERCOM J5. The students were Ashton Cooksey, Sarah Gauthier Gardner, Anna Gibson, Lesly Rocha Covarrubias, and Cheryl Thomas. Their faculty advisor was Lt Gen (ret) Kevin McLaughlin, the Director of the Bush School Cyber Policy and Strategy Program and the former Deputy Commander of USCYBERCOM from 2014-2017.

“I continue to be amazed by the ingenuity and creativity of our Bush School graduate students and their ability to develop entirely new approaches to the difficult cyber policy and strategy challenges facing the nation,” said McLaughlin. “I appreciate the USCYBERCOM and Mr. Mike Clark for understanding the need and value of developing young experts in cyber policy and strategy,”

These students were given three difficult research challenges using only publicly available unclassified sources.

  • How can USCYBERCOM contribute to Integrated Deterrence?
  • What is USCYBERCOM doing today and how can its current strategy be improved?
  • Examine USCYBERCOM alliances and provide recommendations on future partnerships.   

Based on these tasks, the students developed the following Problem Statement Framework:

  • Determine the changes needed to cyber posture, capabilities, and operations to prevent adversaries from gaining long-term advantage over the U.S.;
  • Highlight when, where and how cyber teams should be postured to best ensure long-term US advantage;
  • Create a whole-of-government framework that utilizes partnerships across the USG and with other partners in the commercial sector and in other countries. 

With the challenge and the problem statement complete, the students delivered a 75-page report that had three major findings including a new framework for cyberspace operations in Integrated Deterrence, a new Strategic Cyber Posturing and Influence (SCPI) model, and a new and more aggressive collaborative approach within DoD, the USG, with industry, and foreign allies and partners. 

Due to the complexity and magnitude of the task, the students also recommended several areas for future research which could be tackled by future academic partnerships with Bush School Capstones, Academic Engagement Network schools or by USCYBERCOM.

“We are thankful for our academic partners who are taking on some of the most pressing challenges the command is facing today,” said Mr. Clark. “The insights, innovation, and analysis these student and future national security leaders provide the command, support our national security interests and are critical to our mission to defend the nation in cyberspace. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with academic institutions like Texas A&M as we face the challenges of the rapidly evolving cyberspace domain.”