Home : Media : News : Saved News Module

CDSA Dam Neck Engineer Honored with Black Engineer of the Year Award

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications Division | Feb. 25, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- A Hampton Roads Navy cybersecurity expert is receiving national honors for his contributions protecting defense assets worldwide. 

Ernest Yelder, a civilian cybersecurity technical lead at Combat Direction Systems Activity, Dam Neck (CDSA) was awarded the 2016 Black Engineer of the Year for Outstanding Technical Contribution during the 30th Annual BEYA Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM) Global Competitiveness Conference Awards Gala February 18-20 in Philadelphia, PA. 

Yelder is one of only three Navy engineers nation-wide to receive this year’s BEYA honor and the only Navy recipient in Hampton Roads.


The three-day BEYA conference, sponsored by Career Communications Group, recognizes the significant accomplishments of African-Americans in government and industry, who have achieved exceptional career gains in the fields of STEM. The event attracts thousands of STEM professionals and also serves as a learning tool for students interested in pursuing professional interests in engineering.


Yelder has led the development of cybersecurity engineering capabilities since 2009 for CDSA, a Virginia Beach-based command which is part of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division.

He has more than 30 years of combined military and civilian experience in the fields of Telecommunications, Information Technology and Cybersecurity.

During his 22 years of active military service, Yelder was selected as one of the ten percent to attend the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Management School, which broadened his technical knowledge in the field of Telecommunication.

Upon completion, he attended a newly piloted course, “Network Vulnerability Defense” at Naval Station Northwest in 1995. This course was the first of its kind to introduce what is known today as the field of Information and Cybersecurity.

In 2005, Yelder’s technical expertise contributed to the process development within the newly established Office of the Designated Approving Authority for the Department of the Navy. He would later transition to the Cyber Asset Reduction and Security Task Force as a Technical subject matter expert to execute the strategic plan in reduction of the legacy network infrastructure.

Throughout 2015, Yelder led a 40-person team in the development of a specialized cybersecurity lab to enable advanced development, testing, training and implementation of new technologies.  Long-term, the work performed in this lab is expected to provide significant cost savings to the Navy.

Yelder volunteers as a mentor for students enrolled in local STEM programs to pay honor to his family, particularly his grandmother. He credits them for guiding him at a young age.

“My story is not one of a young man struggling to escape urban blight but rather one with strong male and female role models that had faith in me,” said Yelder during his acceptance speech. “Grandmother made it clear that "CAN'T'" didn't exist in our family. Her words have resonated with me throughout my life. It's amazing how many challenges you can overcome without that word in your vocabulary.”

Yelder holds a GIAC Security Leadership Certification and has been recognized as among his Navy leadership as a cybersecurity expert.

He received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Trinity University in 2003.

The Navy has participated in BEYA for the last 25 years. Additionally, in 2008, the Navy signed an agreement with CCG to promote further Navy participation in CCG events in an effort to reach a diverse workforce.


Commitment to BEYA represents the Navy's campaign to develop future engineers and scientists, and retain top-performing Sailors and civilians whose diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills are necessary to meet today's challenges.