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NMSU’s Physical Science Lab receives $2 million for defense training program

New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory has been awarded $2 million in federal funding from the Department of Defense to create a Defense Civilian Training Corps pilot program. With a goal to increase diversity in the federal workforce, the project is an accelerated recruitment and professional development program.

“PSL is pleased to partner with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Digital Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) to support their mission to create a program to increase the diversity of the federal workforce and pathway to national security careers, with a focus on defense acquisition,” PSL Director Eric Sanchez said. “As we roll out the pilot of the Defense Civilian Training Corp, we will be working hand-in-hand with the White Sands Missile Range leadership to develop a training curriculum and co-op opportunities that build a robust workforce pipeline that supports their important mission and the larger mission of the DoD.”

On Sept. 23, New Mexico U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján announced the funding for the program, which will prepare undergraduate students for public service in DoD occupations relating to defense acquisition, including the fields of data literacy, engineering and technologies to provide the DoD with a prepared and skilled workforce. A significant aspect of the program is to begin and fulfill the process for obtaining a security clearance, one of the main factors that hinders new graduates from entering national security-related careers.

Launched in 2020, PSL’s Classified Ready Employee Workforce, or CREW, program was established to develop a diverse pool of classified-ready professionals with the necessary technical, professional and interpersonal skills required to pursue successful careers in support of national security. Students participate in a series of national security and classification seminars, and are employed through cooperative education experiences in national security research and emerging technology innovation and application.

Currently, 26 students have completed the cohort model program, with nine graduating from NMSU as of May. One hundred percent of CREW students have obtained secret level clearances with four applications initiated at the top-secret level by their employer sponsor.