Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Leading the Charge

Leading the Charge
By Rep. Dusty Johnson

When you read “Nationally Recognized by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” do you think of South Dakota? Well, you should. In Madison, South Dakota, you’ll find one of the nation’s top-ranked cybersecurity programs within the walls of Dakota State University (DSU).

South Dakota is blessed with several top-tier universities, but DSU is unique. Dakota State currently has three Centers of Academic Excellence designations from the NSA and DHS and is one of eight resource centers for the NSA. We live in an ever-growing digital world, with that comes cybersecurity risks and a need for individuals with the skills to protect our technology. DSU and the NSA have partnered together to streamline military personnel’s ability to obtain a degree in the cyber arena. Senator Rounds and I also introduced legislation to make it easier for the Department of Defense to partner with universities on complex cybersecurity issues. Demand for cybersecurity expertise continues to grow and by 2021 there may be as many as 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings – we need to be preparing people for these jobs as soon as possible.

DSU continues to invest and lead the charge in ensuring that our nation’s and our government’s technology is secure. This week I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of the Madison Cyber Labs or “MadLabs.” MadLabs is a state-of-the-art, 38,500 square foot facility with the capacity to host nearly 300 researchers. It will also have a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF to conduct classified research, and DSU is already working to secure contracts with the NSA to conduct research at the new facility.

Many universities throughout the country are seeing a decline in enrollment, but Dakota State isn’t tracking with the norm. DSU reported increased enrollment in 2019 and welcomed their largest freshman class this year. The investment in MadLabs and DSU’s continued innovation will continue to encourage this trend.

South Dakota’s state leaders and generous donors worked hard to ensure the dream of MadLabs became a reality—and because of this effort, South Dakota will educate some of the world’s best and brightest who will go on to be leaders in government, military, and the private security sector. Because of the excellent leadership of DSU President Griffiths and the support of several of our state’s past and present leadership, DSU has excelled as an institution. I look forward to continuing to watch Dakota State University and its students lead our nation in cybersecurity.