The Army will squander the highly sought cyberwarfare skills within its ranks unless the personnel are better managed, Army cyber officials warn.
The Army’s top cyber commander, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, said the Army could use personnel processes such as an additional skill identifier, a functional area or separate branch, but “we have not decided how we will resolve this yet.”
“We have to have a way to manage the talent in this because it takes a long time to train them, and we can’t just put them in a regular unit or we lose them,” Cardon said. “That would be fiscally irresponsible on our part.”
The Defense Department is rolling out 133 teams under U.S. Cyber Command, to perform offense, defense, intelligence and other support under a joint force model.
It’s up to the services to man these interoperable teams, and the Army is rushing to supply its share and position itself to lead the other services in the joint environment at U.S. Cyber Command.
Under Army Cyber Command/2nd Army is 1st Information Operations Command (Land), Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command and the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. But when it comes to staffing for cyberwarfare, Army cyber officials say the Army’s personnel management methods need to adapt.
For now, management is done through “a process of micromanagement,” Cardon said.
“We don’t have a defined path. What we have is, ‘I know who’s in the unit, and they’re not going to move without my say-so,’ ” Cardon said. “We’re going to learn a lot as we have a much larger force because we’re not going to be able to micromanage it like we’re doing now.”
Cardon is focused less on the branch of the cyber warrior than he is on whether the person, for example, is an iOS 7 expert.
“I’m more interested in what’s your skill set, and are you able to do the job,” he said. “How are we managing your skill set, and do we have a growth path for you to continue?”
Such questions have forced the senior leadership of the Army, Army National Guard and Reserve to look broadly at a model that would create processes for talent management, as opposed to personnel assignment.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all, and cyber is pushing us in that direction,” said Combined Arms Center commander Lt. Gen. Dave Perkins.
Open to unexpected MOSs
Army Cyber Leader Development, Training and Education Chief Lt. Col. Jeffrey Metzger said that, often, the people with the skills to fill cyber teams can be found in unexpected military occupational specialties.
For example, afire support officer has become one of the best cyberspace planners around, Metzger said, adding, “The trick is, how do I find that generally and keep progressing his skill sets?”
Cardon said the Army needs to identify soldiers who already have the skills, as well as infantrymen and field artillerymen who can learn.
“We often default to signal and intel, but I think that’s too narrow of an aperture,” Cardon said. “Having people who think differently, I think, is really important. Targeteers have a targeting approach that might be useful.”
The Army must also find a way to “tag” cyber warriors who are recruited into the force and trained, Metzger said.
“If you look at my file, you won’t know any of the certifications I’ve had, except to see what units I’ve been at, and that’s got to change,” Metzger said.
When Cardon asked officials at the Army Personnel Directorate about making the necessary changes, he was told the Army lacked the legislative authorities.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s ask for this kind of authority,’ ” he said.
Otherwise, Cardon said Army Secretary John McHugh is “very close” to approving an Army cyber center of excellence, which Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recommended in July.
The center, likely based at Fort Gordon, Ga., would be the one place where all Army cyber warriors will get their training.
As for force structure, Cardon has recommended to senior Army leaders that Army cyber’s force structure be re-examined every two years, to keep up with technological innovations and new threats.
“We have a pretty good plan out to 2017 to train these officers,” he said.
The Army’s first cyber brigade, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade and its personnel, are at the center of the service’s recruitment and training strategies — and are in the midst of operations.
The 780th commander, Col. Jennifer Buckner, said signals intelligence analysts are the foundation of the unit, but it looks to draw in the right personnel regardless of their MOS and rank.
“We’ve found that it’s as much art as it is science, and we’ve proven that we can take people with no formal intelligence training or technical experience and train them for cyber work,” she said. “If they are adaptive and agile leaders, they understand operating in a complex environment.”