Fayetteville State University to Develop Innovative Curriculum in Data, Artificial Intelligence for National Security

First Courses Anticipated in Spring 2024
Date: July 19, 2023

Dr. Sambit BhattacharyaFayetteville, N.C. (July 19, 2023) — Fayetteville State University (FSU) has received a three-year, $598,707 award from the Office of Naval Research to develop, disseminate, and promote a certificate-conferring curriculum designed to teach skills for advancing Department of Defense (DoD) missions that increasingly rely on data and artificial intelligence (AI).

The award, titled “Data and AI Literacy for National Security,” underscores FSU’s strong ties to the military community in that it affords the University the status of Naval STEM partner. It also stands to build on FSU’s already-strong ties to nearby Fort Liberty.

“This curriculum development effort will create an overarching theme of collaboration between FSU and Fort Liberty,” said Sambit Bhattacharya, Ph.D., an FSU professor of computer science and principal investigator of the curriculum project.

“The rate of change in AI and its applications in national security is so fast that it is challenging to keep up with the advancements. We are designing this program to keep up with this rapid progress and expect that it will create partnerships in applied AI research related to national security.”

The development phase of the curriculum will take two and a half years to complete, with the first two courses scheduled to be offered in the spring of 2024.

Bhattacharya is also the director of the Intelligent Systems Laboratory in FSU’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and he will serve as one of the curriculum project’s instructors. He aims to create a “practical and comprehensive” curriculum that is “flexible, scalable, and customizable according to the needs of the client.”

“Students who complete our curriculum will be able to understand data, use it to inform decision-making, be able to critically assess data-driven documents and presentations, and ask pertinent questions,” he said. “In short, they will be literate.”

The curriculum’s courses will be open to anyone with a high school diploma. Classes will be mostly online to attract working professionals, especially those from the DoD, and they will require no prior knowledge of probability, statistics, data science, analytics, or AI.

The curriculum’s scope will range from beginner to expert, and students will be exposed to technologies such as Python programming, Cloud-based computing, and AI software tools. Students will also be introduced to other training opportunities to deepen their technological skills.

“The goal is to keep updating course content because AI is a rapidly evolving area of knowledge,” Bhattacharya said. “We will continue refining and customizing the content of courses to keep it relevant to the increasing number of people who need this education. The educational content will be customized to the needs of DoD as they see it.”

Bhattacharya added that the curriculum will be a “game changer” response to what many experts believe, namely that “data and its associated technical specialty of AI will be the next revolution in military affairs and fundamentally change the character of war.”

“It is the difference between success and failure against our adversaries,” he added. “It is the differentiator in how we provide for our men and women in uniform. I think the impact of the program will be increased knowledge and understanding of AI- and data-driven decision-making, which will create new abilities for professionals who work for the Department of Defense and other organizations.”

Bill Rivera, Ph.D., a self-employed senior enterprise architect and strategic designer, is the co-principal investigator of the curriculum project, and he will also serve as one of the project’s instructors. Echoing Bhattacharya’s sentiments, he said: “I am delighted to work with Dr. Bhattacharya on this important project. Helping the Navy and other national security partners become data-centric organizations requires a force that is data- and AI-literate, which is precisely the goal of this project.

“We will build a curriculum that could be taught at multiple institutions, providing essential understanding and skills to our men and women in uniform, our civilian workforce, and others.”

Rivera underscores the quality instruction to be featured in the curriculum project: He has over 10 years of experience supporting the Special Forces community at Fort Liberty. He has served as an assistant professor at the College of International Security Affairs of National Defense University and as a senior enterprise architect at both the Joint Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Liberty.

Rivera is also an expert on Iranian strategic influence, computational modeling, and complex adaptive systems. His work is data-driven and he aims to bring both strategic thinking and literacy skills to our men and women in uniform.


Leading military thinkers have written extensively about ways to make data and AI more prominent parts of the education that DoD personnel receive. To learn more, read two papers: A DOD Education Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (2020) by Major Herbert T. Williams, USAF, and Maximizing the Data Literacy of the Air Force Contracting Force (2021) by Capt. Sherry A. Jacobson, USAF.

Bhattacharya predicts that data and AI will revolutionize warfare in much the same way that the development of aviation technology did between the two World Wars of the 20th century. Williams and Jacobson’s papers support this view:

  • Threat monitoring, as well as situation awareness, uses operations that gain and analyze information to aid in many different military activities. There are unmanned systems that can be remotely controlled or sent on a pre-calculated route. These systems use AI to aid defense personnel in monitoring threats, thus leveraging their situational awareness. Drones with AI can also be used in these situations. They can monitor border areas, recognize threats, and alert response teams. Additionally, they can strengthen the security of military bases, as well as increase the safety of soldiers in combat.
  • AI can aid in making target recognition more accurate in combat environments. It can improve the ability of systems like this to identify the position of their targets.
  • Even highly secure military systems can be vulnerable to cyber attacks, which is where AI can be of great help. Attacks can put classified information at risk, as well as damage a system altogether, which can endanger military personnel and jeopardize the mission. AI has the ability to protect programs, data, networks, and computers from unauthorized access.
  • AI can play a role in the transportation of ammunition, goods, armaments, and troops. The logistics and transportation of these things are vital to the success of military operations. AI can help lower transportation costs and reduce the need for human input by, for example, plotting the most efficient route to travel under current conditions.
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