Clinton pushes new federal 'cyber corps'

President Clinton has hailed a new scholarship program designed to create a federal "cyber corps" of information security professionals.

The new program provides scholarships for the study of information security to students in exchange for a two-year commitment to work for the federal government in the information security field. The scholarships support two years of study in information security at either the graduate or undergraduate level.

"It's really hard to get talented people in the government, because we can't pay them enough," said Clinton in a speech Friday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. "But if we can educate enough people, we can at least get them in their early years, and that's important."

In a competition administered by the National Science Foundation, five to eight institutions of learning will get grants to provide two-year scholarships for up to 10 students annually over three years. Interested colleges and universities must submit proposals to NSF outlining their information security programs by Jan. 24 to be eligible for the scholarships.

The scholarships will provide $8,000 a year for undergraduate students and $12,000 a year for graduate students. Selected students will also participate in summer internships at federal agencies at the end of their first year of study.

The scholarship program was tucked into a provision of the fiscal 2001 defense authorization bill designed to bolster federal computer security. That provision also earmarked funds to support the development of information security faculty and programs at selected learning institutions.

Clinton described the program as a way for government to compete with the private sector for the limited supply of information security workers.

"You've got 27-year-old young people worth $200 [million] or $300 million if they start the right kind of dot-com company. It's pretty hard to say, 'Come be a GS-13,'" said Clinton. Regulations stipulating the grade at which cyber corps members will enter the government have not yet been issued, according to Winston Allen, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.

The federal government will experience a shortage of 37,000 information security workers within the next six years, according to White House projections.

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