Virginia Tech launches National Security Institute; Eric Paterson appointed executive director
Virginia Tech has announced the formation of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, aspiring to become the nation's preeminent academic organization at the nexus of interdisciplinary research, technology, policy, and talent development to advance national security.
“As chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, I am pleased that Virginia Tech is strategically organizing and prioritizing its national security research and workforce efforts,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. “Given the university’s nearly $50 million Department of Defense research portfolio, and its strategic locations in Northern Virginia near key national intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, this purposeful focusing of Virginia Tech’s efforts in national security is welcome news. Virginia Tech’s new National Security Institute will help our nation develop new security-related technological advancements while helping train the future generations of intelligence leaders.”
The Department of Defense is Virginia Tech’s largest source of federal funding with approximately $50 million in fiscal year 2020.
Bringing together transdisciplinary researchers, programs, and resources from across the university, including the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology and the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC), the institute will integrate student learning and cutting-edge research at a scale unmatched by other organizations.
“I am excited that Virginia Tech is continuing to foster growth that supports the defense and intelligence communities,” said Letitia “Tish” A. Long, chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and current rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. “Virginia Tech has created a thriving ecosystem of security-related research and workforce development that provide the critical foundation necessary to support the National Security Institute’s mission of shaping the next generation of intelligence leaders, and in pursuit of a safer America.”
With a presence in Blacksburg and the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Virginia Tech National Security Institute will be one of the university’s thematic research institutes, joining the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. These institutes bring together exceptional interdisciplinary faculty, unique research infrastructure, and deep relationships and contracts with sponsors to execute impactful research and development. In 2020, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute executed 17 percent of Virginia Tech’s sponsored research programs.
“Since our founding as a land-grant military institution nearly 150 years ago, Virginia Tech has been dedicated to supporting our nation’s security in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The institute’s mission, combined with our vision to advance education and discovery Beyond Boundaries, creates an opportunity for faculty and students to reimagine national security outside the traditional silos and develop a collective response to the diverse, interconnected physical and social hazards we face.”
Drawing on the experience of its faculty members and experts, the institute will produce research and impact policy related to legal and practical challenges facing national intelligence, defense, law enforcement, homeland security, and cybersecurity communities that are relevant to current questions of national security law and policy and that will aid senior policymakers, key departments, and agencies.
“Virginia Tech’s existing strengths in security research and expertise provides the springboard to expand research capabilities that will impact the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui. “I am proud of the Virginia Tech faculty and staff who have worked together over the past decade to build a vision for research excellence that addresses national security needs, which has culminated in a university-wide effort to develop a charter and launch this new institute.”
A collaborative process led by Stoney Trent, previously chief of missions for the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and principal advisor for the Office for Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech, involved dozens of stakeholders from colleges, institutes, and departments across the university to define the institute’s priorities.
The institute charter was further refined by a review committee of deans, institute directors, and vice presidents convened by Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke, and by the Commission on Research. Both groups voted this spring to recommend approval of the charter.
“Interdisciplinary collaboration, scholarship, and innovation are hallmarks of Virginia Tech’s research enterprise and its significant contributions to our land grant mission,” said Clarke. “The National Security Institute represents a long-standing commitment to leverage the interdisciplinary strengths of our faculty and industry partners to enhance our impacts on and service to the national security community.”
Leading with momentum
Eric Paterson, world-renowned expert in naval hydrodynamics and 30-year veteran of combined industry and higher education experience, will lead the Virginia Tech National Security Institute as its inaugural executive director.
Paterson has served as interim executive director for the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology for over two years and has led the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering as department head for almost 10 years.
“Building upon the Hume Center trajectory and its successful model of blending research execution, graduate education, and experiential learning, I look forward to steering the Virginia Tech National Security Institute into new areas and fostering partnerships across the entire university,” said Paterson, the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Marine Propulsion. “By growing our applied research portfolio that also integrates student learning, this institute will enable Virginia Tech to help solve tomorrow’s national security challenges, and to deliver the workforce of the future.”
Under Paterson’s direction, the department’s research portfolio grew from $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2020. As interim director of the Hume Center, Paterson facilitated growth of the research portfolio from $13 million to $18 million, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and enhanced research and education programs.
Paterson was also engaged with the Office of Research and Innovation on the development of a dedicated space for security-related research in Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center, which is now home to the newly launched Virginia Tech National Security Institute.
Committed to the mission
Virginia Tech alumnus and lifetime security professional Ted Hume has dedicated his life to the mission of his country, serving in the spirit of Ut Prosim.
Hume began his career in the intelligence community through a cooperative education program at Virginia Tech. After working for many years in U.S. government intelligence, he co-founded Dominion Technology Resources Inc., a systems engineering company that serves the federal government.
Driven by his passion for his country, Hume, who received a degree in electrical engineering in 1975, made a generous donation in 2009 that launched the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology, providing the catalyst to engage students and faculty interested in working with intelligence agencies and to address the government’s need for qualified U.S. citizens to work on national security projects. The inclusion of Hume’s wife, Karyn, in the center’s name is an important recognition of the sacrifices that were also made by his wife and family.
“Ted’s unwavering commitment to his country and dedication to Virginia Tech has been vital to grow the pipeline of intelligence community professionals,” said Long, who serves on the Hume Center’s advisory board.
National defense research
Under the framework of Virginia Tech National Security Institute, the Hume Center will continue to be the focal point for the university’s national security education program, including management of the Hume endowment, and the execution of academic affiliates program, vertically-integrated programs for workforce development, and other programs such as the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence. Center research has focused on resilient and secure communications, cyber defense and security, data science and artificial intelligence, space situational awareness, physics of in-situ and remote sensing, and autonomous mission platforms in the defense and intelligence communities.
In support of national defense partners, the Hume Center has established itself as a leading innovator in advancing radio frequency machine-learning research and the application of state-of-the-art deep machine learning concepts to wireless communication and electronic warfare applications.
VT-ARC is a strategic partner in the National Security Institute that delivers tailored analysis, research, and engineering to address problems of national and global importance, and develops innovative technologies that safeguard the nation and advance global welfare. The corporation had $13 million in revenue in fiscal year 2021, nearly three-quarters of which is from the Department of Defense. Research activities include in-depth analysis and prototype development of future 5G technologies, advanced spectrum sharing approaches, science and technology analytics and forecasting, artificial Intelligence assurance and human-machine teaming concepts, and conducting technology acceleration with industry on behalf of the Department of Defense.
In March, the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, won a $13 million Department of Defense contract to develop a 5G-enabled “smart warehouse” at the Marine Corps Logistics Base.
Funded by the Department of Defense and directed by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Virginia Tech is one of three institutions leading the new Acquisition Innovation and Research Center. Virginia Tech’s Laura Freeman leads the executive team, bringing together higher education expertise to increase efficiency in the U.S. Defense Acquisition System to accompany the expansion of defense technology.
Also funded by the Department of Defense, an interdisciplinary research team led by Virginia Tech is studying latency and information freshness in military Internet of Things systems with a $7.5 million, five-year Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant.
Cultivating minds, developing leaders
The National Security Institute will meet head-on one of the biggest challenges to the national security and technology enterprise: the availability of talent. Further enhancing learned classroom knowledge through internships and co-ops, Virginia Tech has relationships with industry leaders that includes Raytheon, MITRE, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, providing Virginia Tech students deeper technical and applied security related experiences.
Virginia Tech offers multidisciplinary opportunities in education and research in areas of cybersecurity, information security, network security, hardware security, and software security with participating faculty from various colleges leading programs, including the Pamplin College of Business’ Integrated Security Education and Research Center, the Hume Center’s National Security Education Program, the School of Public and International Affairs’ National Security Executive Leadership Program, and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ National Security and Foreign Affairs major.
Virginia Tech is a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research and Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, and an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence. The university participates in federal scholarship and enrichment programs including the National Science Foundation, Office of Personnel Management’s Cybercorps Scholarship for Service, the Office of Naval Research’s Manufacturing Engineering Education Program, and the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Scholarship Program.
"With a focus on cultivating leadership skills and security competencies, the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber Leadership Development Program at Virginia Tech leverages the strengths of our engineering programs in building a pipeline for technical experts and leaders in national security,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “This program, which is dedicated to student education and research in critical security areas, connects our students to faculty expertise and professional preparation within real-world contexts.”
Backed by an award-winning office
The breadth and depth of Virginia Tech’s secure research infrastructure is reinforced by an award-winning office that protects secure research and the researchers conducting the often restricted work.
“The university’s commitment to supporting national security research and the significant compliance requirements that come with the secure research components have been, and will continue to be, essential to the success of the program,” said John Talerico, director of the Office of Export and Secure Research Compliance. “Our team embraces the opportunity to work with the newly formed National Security Institute to continue to grow Virginia Tech’s research and education activities in this area.”
A business unit within the Virginia Tech Office of Research and Innovation, Talerico and his team promote fundamental research, protect U.S. technology, and educate Virginia Tech employees and students about requirements and regulations related to security.
For the university's unwavering commitment to protecting faculty and student defense and national security research, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency honored the office with the Cogswell Award in 2020 and 2016 and the 2018 Award for Excellence in Counterintelligence. Virginia Tech is one of only two higher education institutions nationally to be honored out of the approximately 12,500 cleared facilities in the National Industrial Security Program last year.