Uncovering DePaul’s connections with Raytheon Technologies


Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia

DePaul University Lincoln Park campus.

Last March, DePaul established the Berrigan-McAlister Award, which will be given annually to a person or organization who practices Christian nonviolence. Still, DePaul offers programs that have connections to one of the nation’s top defense companies.

The award was given virtually on May 5 to the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — a group of Catholic activists who participated in a disarmament of nuclear weapons at the largest nuclear submarine base in the world.

Despite the university establishing an annual award committed to recognizing those who practice Christian nonviolence and peace, the university’s College of Computing and Digital Media fosters a top cybersecurity program that has affiliations with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Administration and Raytheon Technologies.

Raytheon Technologies is one of the top three defense contractor companies in the U.S. that researches, develops and manufactures advanced technology products including aircraft engines, avionics, cybersecurity, missiles, air defense systems and drones. In the first quarter of 2021, Raytheon made $496 million in profits and $3.793 million in sales. They also earned $14.7 billion in federal contracts.

DePaul offers both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Students in the program take courses on information security, security infrastructure design and implementation and computer forensics, according to the program page. Students design, implement, integrate and manage various security components. The degree is structured for students to be prepared for the fast growing industry, working in various corporate and consulting environments as well as government agencies.

The university is designated a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE-CD)  in Cybersecurity by both the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

DePaul’s computer science website offers a sample list of where past graduates are currently employed. This list shows alumni have been previously employed by Raytheon Technologies.

James Riely, a professor in DePaul’s computer science program, worked in engineer positions at IBM and E-Systems, which is currently known as Raytheon, according to his DePaul staff page.

Riely told The DePaulia he worked for E-Systems for two years right after graduating from Northwestern. He designed hardware to manage memory access in a multiprocessor computing system dedicated to image processing. He then left the company to attend graduate school for computer science.

While he was at graduate school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, he worked for a year at IBM as a contractor working with software testing frameworks.

“In these companies, I saw how hardware development and software development differed at the time.  Hardware developers had a lean, agile culture, whereas software developers were weighed down by bureaucracy and paperwork,” Riely said.  “The difference is perhaps rooted in the clean and inflexible interfaces defined for hardware, and the relatively messy, flexible interfaces defined for software.  I taught software engineering in my first decade at depaul, and my work experience influenced the way I taught: pushing for agile processes and clean interfaces (sic).”

“I also think it’s useful to understand how large companies work when advising students,” he said.

When asked how being a former IBM and E-Systems employee (known now as Raytheon) helped him and the program at DePaul make connections, grants and funding for the university, he said that it was too long ago and he was “too junior for anything useful to come of it.”

Riely received a career award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2004 and has since been a private investigator or co-private investigator on several other NSF grants.

“While at DePaul, I’ve been PI or co-PI for five NSF grants totalling about $2.2M.  These projects have all been in the area of theoretical computer science, with applications to computer security and programming language semantics,” Riely said.

The NSF has historically also been awarding grants towards Raytheon and the Boeing Company –– another military corporation that supplies aerospace and defense technologies.

Since 2020, DePaul has been awarded roughly $2,696,108 from the NSF.

In 2009, DePaul’s computing program received a standard grant from the NSF of nearly $500,000 –– for which Riely served as the co-principal investigator. He oversees the grant project that money was awarded for.

Security Daemons, DePaul’s information security club, were the Midwest champions in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition last March. The competition was presented by Raytheon Intelligence and Space, one of the four Raytheon Technologies business segments that works with cyber and software solutions. DePaul’s team advanced to the national competition where they won second place.

DePaul’s connections to Raytheon are also apparent on DePaul’s gift processing donation site. Raytheon Company is listed as one of the companies that sponsor matching gift programs towards DePaul. Raytheon, as of March 30, would match up to $10,000 gifts made to DePaul.

The university acceptance of donations from Raytheon employees who are then matched by the defense company can be alarming to students who are aware of DePaul’s nonviolent mission.

If the public wanted to access which companies match gift donations on DePaul’s website –– the site is not easily navigable and accessible to those who may not have used it.  About five or six different links need to be clicked whereas one can view the gift processing form, and then scroll to the bottom and click a box that allows one to search different companies.

This past winter quarter, other DePaul students started a campus chapter of Dissenters, an organization committed to divesting institutions from military and military influence.

Although it is unclear the full monetary relationship between Raytheon Technologies at DePaul, DePaul Dissenters member Citlali Perez speculates that student tuition money could be funneled into these partnerships.

“It’s important to know where tuition money is going to and what exactly your institution represents, what they stand for and what they support,” she said.

When asked if he has been personally addressed about DePaul students speaking out about a program at the university having affiliations with Raytheon and other government agencies, Riely explained his departure at E-Systems.

“One of the reasons I left E-Systems is that I finally got a security clearance and discovered some of the details of the project I was working on.  It was the Reagan “star wars” years…  I didn’t like the politics of it,” he said.

DePaul does not post if any percentage of tuition goes into fueling partnerships. But Perez said she believes that DePaul needs to be clear which companies they donate or fund.

“It’s really important that students should know and that they should be transparent to the DePaul community,” she said. “Because you’re not just giving you money for an education, you’re part of the community.”

Due to DePaul guaranteeing jobs at Raytheon after graduation, Perez compared it to aspects of military recruiting because of Raytheon’s prominent presence on campus.

“That’s like how it’s set up for the interest of the public because [DePaul] is going to benefit from this and that’s why they’ll try the opportunity that brings the money,” she said.

Given that Vincentian values promote peace and justice, Perez thinks it’s hypocritical to support companies like Raytheon who profit from war.

“DePaul has ZERO transparency regarding its financial donors,” said a student Twitter user. “They don’t make it public which corporations or individuals donate to the university or how much money it is.”

“Depending on how much they contribute to DePaul’s endowment fund, Raytheon could have literally more influence over the university’s decisions than the average student or faculty person,” they added.

The DePaulia reached out to university spokespeople for comment and connected with Jacob Furst, director of DePaul’s School of Computing.

“Since there is nothing about our cybersecurity programs, competitions, or designations that are pro-war, it is hard to imagine that we would be in conflict with any anti-war messaging from the Division of Mission and Ministry,” Furst said. “We have been designated as a center of excellence since 2004; I expect that anyone at the university who had concerns would have reached out before now.”

Furst also commented on the various NSF grants the program has received.

“While ‘national security’ gets a single mention, the NSF is broadly an institution created to foster scientific research. In no way can this be considered pro-war, or in any way inconsistent with DePaul’s mission,” he said. “Quite the reverse: faculty who get NSF grants to conduct research are enhancing the education of all their students, by bringing cutting edge science into the classroom.”

Furst also said that he’s never seen a student complaint about any faculty’s prior employment or research funding in almost 25 years at DePaul.

“I am unable to guess about how a faculty’s prior employment might affect research funding,” Furst said.

The May award is named after Father Daniel Berrigan, Phillip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister –– a group of social activists and peace advocates –– in connection to their activism that has “resisted injustice, transformed conflict, fosters reconciliation and seeks justice and peace for all.”

Although the award was intended to be given back in March, five out of the seven Kings Bay Plowshares are currently serving time in prison for breaking into a naval base back in 2018.

The seventh catholic priest was sentenced to 21 months in prison on April 9 for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia, according to Religion News Service.

The award given by DePaul is sponsored by the university’s office and programs such as the Division of Mission and Ministry, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the Department of Catholic Studies, the Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies program and the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, to name a few.

Furst said that Raytheon’s competition promotes education over military propaganda.

“DePaul has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Education by the Department of Homeland Defense and the National Security Agency,” Furst said in an email to The DePaulia. “While the National Security Agency is a part of the Department of Defense, our designation is only with regard to our educational excellence, which I feel is fairly consistent with DePaul’s mission. Further, the designation comes with no actual support from either DHS or the NSA, so there is no particular influence that either organization holds over DePaul.”

“The competition in which our students partake is, itself, part of the excellence of the students’ education, as it provides them experience in actual corporate situations, defending against cyber attacks,” he added. “While Raytheon is the primary supporter of the competition, it is also supported by many other companies. It is also the case that the competition scenarios are always business and never military.”

DePaul has not been transparent about the full extent of the university’s partnership with Raytheon Technologies, nor is there any indication on DePaul or Raytheon’s website indicating a formal relationship.