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DC3Defense Cyber Crime Center
Air Force Office of Special Investigations

A National Cyber Center



Defense Cyber Investigations Training Academy

The National Centers of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence (CDFAE) program has been developed to foster the digital forensics field and encourages growth in supporting the National Initiative Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework.

Students participating in the CDFAE program will graduate with the ability to:

  • Resolve digital forensic problems
  • Use current techniques, skills, and tools necessary for digital forensic examinations of digital media, files, operating systems, devices, networks, and applications
  • Design, implement, and evaluate a system, process, component, or program to meet digital forensic needs
  • Appreciate professional, ethical, legal, security, social, and continuing education and development responsibilities

What is CDFAE's Mission?

Develop a partnership between academia and the government to establish standards and best practices for digital forensics practitioners, educators, and researchers to advance the discipline of digital forensics and increase the number of qualified professionals in the law enforcement, counterintelligence, national defense, and legal communities.

CDFAE Designated Programs

What Value Does CDFAE Add?

  • Establishes a common core curriculum and development of standards for education and training in digital forensics studies
  • CDFAE designation requires in-course peer reviews of curriculum and practicum within a three-year period
  • Provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in digital forensics
  • Provides employers capacity to confirm a candidate's capability to apply their knowledge
  • Develops a certifiable path to meet DoD workforce requirements and national cyber education needs with respect to digital forensics
  • Strengthens bonds between government, academia, professional organizations, and industry


The United States is in a cybersecurity workforce deficit.  More than ever, organizations need to plan for the future as significant shifts in cyber operations accelerate globally.  Digital forensics skill sets provide cross-cutting application to multiple fields.  In its strictest connotation, digital forensics is the application of computer science and investigative procedures involving the examination of digital evidence, including following proper search authority, chain of custody, validation with mathematics, use of validated tools, repeatability, reporting, and expert testimony.  Beyond traditional legal purposes, the same techniques, scientific rigor, and procedural precision now support the range of military operations and course of action (e.g., computer network operations, as well as counterintelligence objectives).  CDFAE serves as a prime avenue for cultivating leaders to meet evolving objectives across the digital forensics and cyber communities, as is vital to protect, investigate and serve public, private and national goals.


  • DoD-recognized skill set and awareness of current issues facing digital forensics investigators and examiners
  • Opportunity to be recognized where their skills can be of the greatest value
  • Valued for their highly desirable and unique skill sets
  • Capability to use the current techniques, skills, and tools necessary for digital forensic examination of digital media, files, operating systems, devices, networks, and applications for discovery and recovery of evidence
  • Aptitudes to design, implement, and evaluate a system, process, component, or program to meet digital forensic needs
  • Appreciation of professional, ethical, legal, security, social, and continuing education and development responsibilities

Education Providers

  • Access to advanced digital forensic resources
  • Educators are recognized as being capable of effectively delivering theory and practicum
  • Provide students greater access to unique internship or employment opportunities


  • Hire employees with validated skill sets capable of being on task day one
  • Understand exactly what skills the employee brings to bear
  • Ability to diversify geographical hires without compromising quality

DC3's Role in Digital Forensics 

Operating since 1998, DC3 provides digital and multimedia (D/MM) forensics, cyber investigative training; research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E); and cyber analytics to DoD computer network defense (CND), law enforcement (LE), intelligence community (IC), counterintelligence (CI), and counterterrorism (CT) agencies.  DC3 is recognized as a designated National Cyber Center in the National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD-54/HSPD-24) and serves as the operational focal point for the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cybersecurity and Information Assurance DIB CS/IA Program.

DC3 is also a co-lead and the DoD representative for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework under Component 4 - Cybersecurity Workforce Training and Professional Development for Functional Area 3 - Domestic Law Enforcement (LE) and Counterintelligence (CI).  DC3's contributions, along with its co-leads defined the NICE framework's high-level category of Investigate for the specialty areas of Digital Forensics and Investigation.

DC3 chairs the CDFAE governance board comprised of academia and professional organizations specific to the discipline.  The governance board oversees learning objective requirements, designation, and ensuring that a holistic approach to developing digital forensics, cyber investigation, and cyber analytics education is in place.

How is CDFAE Designed?

CDFAE focuses upon building core knowledge domains at multiple skill and ability levels across the education spectrum. CDFAE designates DoD and federal education organizations, and academia to a digital forensic education standard based upon knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) used in the field. It is an objective driven program which progresses to topic-based research and problem solving. The CDFAE program is designed to create an applied knowledge (hands-on) to knowledge applied (theoretical and research) educational mechanism with a clear progression between the training and education dichotomy in workforce development.

The eight knowledge domains represent well-rounded digital forensics education topics field and the learning objective levels are indicative elements of those topics. The program must provide structured advanced academic, research, and development capabilities in any or all of the digital forensics knowledge domain areas under the Learning Objective Framework (LOF) at a level appropriate for the current curriculum of participating educational institutes while enhancing and providing supplemental support towards digital forensic objectives. This is accomplished by transitioning general knowledge areas to a specific topic application.

The CDFAE program maps digital forensic knowledge domains to specific learning objectives including practical exercises.

Categories of CDFAE Designation

The CDFAE program offers designations to accredited academic programs that confer a digital forensics-related degree.  To receive CDFAE designation, an institution's accredited academic program must map courses against a common core curriculum and must have in-course peer reviews of curriculum and practicum within a three year period.

The CDFAE program provides two separate designations that map to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework for persons successfully passing CDFAE testing through a designated CDFAE academic program:

  • Cyber Incident Responder (levels 100 and 200)
  • Digital Forensics Examiner (levels 300 and 400)

Interested in applying to become a CDFAE designated program?

Email: CDFAE@dc3.mil

Date Updated: 08 Jan 2014 12:13 EST