The US Government Is Considering Drafting Middle-Aged Hackers To Fight The Cyberwar

from the could-not-have-found-a-worse-way-to-approach-its-personnel-problem dept

There’s no time like the near future to be conscripted into military service. Due to citizens’ declining interest in being personally involved in the government’s multiple Forever Wars, the Commission on Military, National and Public Service is exploring its options. And one of the options on the table is removing restrictions on certain draftees (or volunteers) headed for certain positions in the armed forces.

Got hacking skills? Uncle Sam may want you for the U.S. Army—even if you’re far past traditional draft age.

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is seeking public feedback on a slew of possible changes to the way the government handles its selective service requirements, including drafting people with cyber skills regardless of their age or gender.

The commission study was directed by Congress in the 2017 version of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill, and is due to Congress in 2020.

This expansion would net the government essential personnel needed to fight the still-undeclared Cyberwar. No matter your age or severity of bone spurs, the government might have a desk job for you. And you might not have a say in the matter. If the commission recommends a draft targeting key non-combat personnel, people in their thirties and forties might find themselves parachuting telecommuting into the war zone despite having careers in place elsewhere.

The key points of the Commission’s directive [PDF] can be found in this paragraph.

Congress has specifically directed the Commission to consider:

“(1) the need for a military selective service process, including the continuing need for a mechanism to draft large numbers of replacement combat troops;

(2) means by which to foster a greater attitude and ethos of service among United States youth, including an increased propensity for military service;

(3) the feasibility and advisability of modifying the military selective service process in order to obtain for military, national, and public service individuals with skills (such as medical, dental, and nursing skills, language skills, cyber skills, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills) for which the Nation has a critical need, without regard to age or sex; and

(4) the feasibility and advisability of including in the military selective service process, as so modified, an eligibility or entitlement for the receipt of one or more Federal benefits (such as educational benefits, subsidized or secured student loans, grants or hiring preferences) specified by the Commission for purposes of the review.”

Congress may be looking to reinstate the draft. It seems we wouldn’t need to “draft large numbers of replacement troops” if we weren’t continually sending them off to foreign lands to get shot at or blown up. Scaling back our military presence might nip the draft idea in the bud, but with few exceptions, things have only escalated since September 11, 2001, rather than cooled down.

Dropping the age and sex requirement for other positions is wise, but it quickly becomes foolhardy once it’s no longer voluntary. The reason the government can’t keep the military stocked is it’s done all it can over the past 50 years to destroy Americans’ faith in it. Things went south reputationally during the Vietnam War, which is the last time the draft was in place. A bungled “military action,” punctuated by atrocities, extended for purely political reasons, and ended with what one could generously call a “tie,” did little to warm the hearts of American citizens. The years since then have seen “wars on” various ideas declared, with no definitive enemy or endpoint. There’s not a lot of enthusiasm left for joining the world’s police force, especially when threats to American way of life shift with White House regime changes. The rebels we once sold arms to are now a terrorist organization in need of stomping out by boots on the ground.

That dovetails into the second task of the Commission: “fostering a greater attitude and ethos of service.” This is the government’s fault and the government needs to fix it. It won’t be able to do it overnight or even in time to rustle up a bunch of “replacement troops” to send to whatever area of the world is in need of gunpoint democracy. I’m sure the final report may have something to say about millennials failing to adopt the ethos and pro-American enthusiasm of their generational predecessors, but who could blame them? The Social Security safety net will have dried up before they have a chance to access it and their economic future is in the hands of malicious actors the government has never shown an interest in punishing. (See every administration ever vs. “too big to fail.”)

Knowing this ship won’t be righted easily may prompt the Commission to suggest something no one would imagine being enacted here. A few pages down, the Commission asks a bunch of questions of itself — one that would appear to answer another one, but with a “solution” most commonly found in totalitarian dictatorships.

(1) Is a military draft or draft contingency still a necessary component of U.S. national security?

(2) Are modifications to the selective service system needed?

(3) How can the United States increase participation in military, national, and public service by individuals with skills critical to address the national security and other public service needs of the nation?

(4) What are the barriers to participation in military, national, or public service?

(5) Does service have inherent value, and, if so, what is it?

(6) Is a mandatory service requirement for all Americans necessary, valuable, and feasible?

(7) How does the United States increase the propensity for Americans, particularly young Americans, to serve?

Yes, one sure way to “increase participation” is to mandate participation via a draft. Another way is to make it mandatory across the board for all citizens, making the draft redundant. Neither of these efforts will solve other problems like “fostering a greater attitude or ethos of service.” If either of these are enacted, the military will be full of people who don’t want to be there and who won’t have their eye on anything other than the calendar. This will only exacerbate the military’s current issues. The only thing it addresses is the need for periodic infusions of cannon fodder.

The cyberwar the government has been gearing up to fight for most the last decade will be another Forever War. Even if it’s a bloodless battle, it will be far from harmless. The government already makes policy decisions based on highly-speculative attribution. In the future, it will engage in both cyberwar and conventional war using the same information. There won’t be bodies to bury, but someone’s going to end up taking out the wrong critical infrastructure or targeting the wrong critical government entity based on political wind shifts. A steady infusion of keyboard warriors may sound like a good idea, but displacing people and uprooting their lives to act on political whims won’t restore faith in the US of A. No one’s going to be throwing parades for cyberveterans marching home with college money and participation ribbons. And if the tech side of the military industrial complex thinks it already has a problem with insider threats, just wait till it’s mostly composed of people who have been pressed into service against their will.

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Comments on “The US Government Is Considering Drafting Middle-Aged Hackers To Fight The Cyberwar”

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74 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I can see it now

Captain: Lieutenants, get your squads to nerd harder and faster.

Lieutenants: Sargents, the Captain tells us that we are not nerding up to speed and quality. Get some discipline in your troops.

Sargents: Troops, you are hereby ordered to nerd harder and faster. The other squads are ahead of us. You had better get some ideas quick, or there is gonna be some hell to pay.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: "mandatory service requirement"

The 13th amendment has been exempted since the start, according to the Supreme Court.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution itself:

The Congress shall have Power To […] raise and support Armies; […] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; […] To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.

Alphonse Tomato says:

Re: Re: "mandatory service requirement"

Would that be the same Militia mentioned in the 2nd amendment? Maybe a good draft pool there with the 2nd partisans. A few of them are actually people with IT jobs.

And they’re already sharpshooters. Which is good, given the military’s tendency to reassign specialists to wherever more bodies are needed. Clerk-typists can suddenly become tank drivers, why can’t hackers suddenly become infantry?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "mandatory service requirement"

Duties seem to have a jurisprudence ignoring such things unfortunately under ‘duties’. Probably English common law inherited. Like obscenity laws. It would have been wonderful if a radical interpretation was taken and upheld. Even though say a George Washington and King George slash fiction would have appalled and offended nearly everyone at the time still held as legal. There seems to be a sad societal tendency to stumble upon revolutionary ideas and then decide ‘no that can’t be right” and then scale them back. Like Einstein declaring that god does not play dice with the world upon stumbling upon quantum mechanics after figuring out relativity and time dilattion or the Pythagoreans freaking out and suppressing the truth about irrational numbers. Personally I take the view we need to accept the truth even when the implications are disconcerting and uncomfortable, no especially then. That feeling means we were all wrong and have the potential to be more right than ever conceived as possible before.

OA (profile) says:

Re: Re: "mandatory service requirement"

There seems to be a sad societal tendency to stumble upon revolutionary ideas and then decide ‘no that can’t be right" and then scale them back. Like Einstein declaring that god does not play dice with the world upon stumbling upon quantum mechanics after figuring out relativity and time dilattion or the Pythagoreans freaking out and suppressing the truth about irrational numbers. Personally I take the view we need to accept the truth even when the implications are disconcerting and uncomfortable, no especially then. That feeling means we were all wrong and have the potential to be more right than ever conceived as possible before.

<Emphasis added>

Yikes! No, No, No, No… Noooo! I’m making a presumption, but you should avoid excessive certainty, ESPECIALLY when your information does not come from first hand knowledge. NOT "the truth", but theories, ideas, conventions, tools, etc… That comment was written as if from understanding but it reads as if from blind faith (and perhaps a couple of other things).

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "mandatory service requirement"

Very good point. Truth is for mathematicians and philosophers. That’s one of the biggest problems with physics today – too many pure mathematicians trying to argue that since the math is true, it must be real. Any engineer worth their salt would laugh in the face of such a claim. I learned that while math may be true, it’s often not real all the way back in middle-school algebra.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "mandatory service requirement"

Just how long has the 13th amendment been a dead letter?

Oh, you finally got around to reading Comrade Schenck’s pamphlet ?

The document in question upon its first printed side recited the first section of the Thirteenth Amendment, said that the idea embodied in it was violated by the Conscription Act and that a conscript is little better than a convict.

Anonymous Coward says:

Could help Canadian tech companies

the military will be full of people who don’t want to be there and who won’t have their eye on anything other than the calendar.

If it’s anything like last time, Canada will get a huge influx of tech workers, thereby reversing the "brain drain" Canadian policians used to always be complaining about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Could help Canadian tech companies

Foreign students, visitors, or diplomats are exempt, but foreign workers are not.

So if I have a company full of Russian and Chinese hackers, they’re going to bring them right onto the US Army computer networks? I’m no military expert but I feel like something’s not quite right with this idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

“fostering a greater attitude and ethos of service.”

wtf – aka, brainwashing

Gotta draft em … why compete when you don’t have to?

Such draftees will not have the “greater attitude and ethos of service” they desire, it’s juast the way it is … they will have a boot camp – for grey haired hackers? This sounds like a comedy waiting to happen.

Josie's Pussycat (profile) says:

Real source documents

Rather than post links to nextgov.com and some rando’s documentcloud, why not link directly to the Federal Register? Your readers might be interested in actually submitting comments (before April 18), although based on the FCC’s recent response to public input, maybe silence would be a better option?
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/16/2018-03261/request-for-information-on-improving-the-military-selective-service-process-and-increasing

You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. 05-2018-01, by any of the following methods:
Email: national.commission.on.service.info@mail.mil. Please include the docket number in the subject line of the message.

Website: http://www.inspire2serve.gov/​content/​share-your-thoughts. Follow the instructions on the page to submit a comment and include the docket number in the comment.

Mail: National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, Attn: RFI COMMENT—Docket 05-2018-01, 2530 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Room 1029 Arlington, VA 22202.

All submissions received must include the docket number. If the Commission cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, the Commission may not be able to consider your comment. Late comments will be considered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Consequences

“In the future, it will engage in both cyberwar and conventional war using the same information. There won’t be bodies to bury […]”

Yes. There will. There already have been. It’s just that the connection between the warfare and the deaths isn’t quite as direct and obvious as “one of our soldiers shot one of yours”. And that’s not by accident: one of the best ways to conduct a war without being overt about it is to obscure that linkage. It allows you to deny the existence of the conflict to everyone: allies, adversaries, and your own population and political institutions.

But this is a very dangerous strategy for the US — because it’s the nation deploying more attackable infrastructure than any other. Every day, billions of dollars are spent constructing more…and all any adversary has to do is wait and watch, choosing the time when damaging the target will have the maximum effect. From electronic voting systems to Twitter, from the IOT to healthcare databases, we’re deploying more targets every day.

When the bill for that comes due, it will be as much in blood as it is in dollars.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Consequences

From electronic voting systems to Twitter, from the IOT to healthcare databases, we’re deploying more targets every day.

Oh it’s far worse than that, the US not only has an increasingly large amount of targets for adversaries to hit, it’s also got people as high up as FBI Director trying to make those targets even easier to hit.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

18-year-olds drafted for Vietnam didn’t have families, mortgages and car loans the way today’s 40-year-olds do. Nor did they have a decade or two of advancement in their jobs.

Any draft is going to have to come with orders for the banks to put those debts on hold. And for employers to hold the draftees’ positions.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen reliably.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen reliably.

I doubt that the congress critters will hold themselves to the same standard too. If I am subject to the draft, than so should they.

Maybe not as a cybersecurity expert, but I’d love to see them go over and serve a couple tours (for those that haven’t already done so in the current countries we are fighting in, though I doubt there are many of those.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, I disagree. Congress already is part of the war effort. They’re in charge of finances, treaties and demands, making sure the forces have access to the required technology and personnel.

It would wound the war effort if, say, a member of your Senate Intelligence Committee got drafted. Even worse if they got captured!

Besides, what exactly would a 50-year-old lawyer provide to an army’s front lines or support troops that would not be significantly less than a younger man?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Any draft is going to have to come with orders for the banks to put those debts on hold. And for employers to hold the draftees’ positions.

Why? A lot of Vietnam veterans still haven’t recovered. You’re being very optimistic about what the government will "have to" do. The relevant question isn’t whether they have families etc., it’s whether they’ll vote out anyone who supports this.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

With Vietnam, America was used to the draft. Not so, today.

With Vietnam, the lower class kids were drafted. Not so with the sons of the wealthy and powerful. (Do a quick poll of Presidents, VPs and the candidates for those positions over the last 20 years. That’s a lot of deferments and exemptions.)

But with this plan, they’re talking about drafting middle-aged professionals. They have power and influence, and now the internet. If they start losing their homes because they were drafted, it’ll have greater consequences.

And it won’t just be them exerting pressure. The banks will too, faced with draftees unable to pay debts on a scale unseen in Vietnam.

TongueInCheek says:

It's a plot for youth to have more babies

https://thinkprogress.org/paul-ryan-says-american-women-need-to-have-more-babies-dc45cb1afec2/

“Alluding to the fact that he’s a father of three, Ryan added, “I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force.””

Here you go: conflating economics with population with the need to “draft” older persons to allow younger persons to have babies….

Agammamon says:

Hmm. The government might want to consider the ‘unintended’ consequences of shanghaiing experienced but unwilling IT professionals with a specialty in getting into computer systems and causing/preventing havoc.

When the government is telling you that you will serve or die its not that difficult to figure out who the enemy really is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dropping the age and sex requirement for other positions is wise, but it quickly becomes foolhardy once it’s no longer voluntary.

Why? If we’re going to have a draft, why shouldn’t it be equal-opportunity? Especially for positions that don’t require physical strength and stamina.

The reason given seems to be that people would resent it, but it’s not like draft-age males don’t also resent it.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: draft? A gov. job?

funny.
The USA gov. hires corps(created internally or by the Political parties) to do the jobs the Gov. will pay for.
Both sides Bitch when the gov. creates another agency to do something. So they HIRE IT OUT.

Be a Drone pilot, get hired by a 3rd party and get paid BETTER then our military.
Be an Armed guard for Politicians, in the military zones, and get 10 times the military wage..

I find it fun, that there are millions of people that Both Gov. and military wont hire..Disabled, and SHORT..but REAL smart people that can help in MANY other ways.. Even a person in a wheelchair can run a hyster. Get a hint here. There are allot of people WHO WANT THE JOBS..

But, long ago, Someone Bitched that the Gov. was to big, and needed to Cut back and many things, and they Cut everything, (AS A CORP WOULD) and now we have lots of problems..
LETS FIX THINGS.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Wait, wait, this is a movie in the making.

Act One: Hackers get drafted to hack for the military.

Act Two: While sometimes saving lives and sometimes engaging in Caltech / MIT style hijinks, draftee hackers discover the military is doing Bad Things. because of course they are.

All is lost moment: Military extorts draftee hackers to toe the line for big black ops mission.

Act Three: draftee hackers go rogue, turn the black ops mission into a hilarious media spectacle and broadcast evidence globally incriminating their superiors.

Jonas says:

A return of the draft might be one of the best things we could ask for. It’s fucking hard to be a warmongering Democracy with a draft. You know why we pulled out of Vietnam? Because we didn’t finish transitioning to an all-volunteer army first. When little Bobby gets drafted and dies on some foreign shore, it’s a tragedy and people get upset. When little Bobby volunteers and dies on some foreign shore, he’s a fucking hero. This is why the anti-war movement in America is dead. Oh, a lot of people are all like “War is wrong!”, and you’ll find the occasional comment about how awful the things we do are, but so few American’s care enough to get off their ass and *do* something about it.

That said, nothing I read here actually points to bringing back the draft. It’s a commission looking at adjusting the rules to make drafting middle aged desk jockeys (and women) a thing for our increasingly desk jockey military, instead of just drafting kids that ain’t even old enough to drink. The part that’s missing is actually instituting the draft. The draft will never return without a major war to go along with it, because starting it is political suicide.

Jonas says:

Re: Re:

Oops. Can’t edit.

>The reason the government can’t keep the military stocked is it’s done all it can over the past 50 years to destroy Americans’ faith in it.

Not even remotely true. We can’t keep the military stocked because we’ve put pretty harsh rules on entry. The military is overwhelmingly white and and upper-class as a result. Don’t have a high school degree or a GED? You’re not getting in the military. Is your IQ 83 or less? That’s about 15% of the population, and you aren’t allowed in. You have no useful skills, and you’re barely smart enough to get in? You got shitty job options in the military such as fuel handler or cook.

The military could fill it’s ranks easily if they accepted people that couldn’t keep a 2.5GPA in high school, or if they took highschool dropouts in any meaningful numbers. Except they don’t. The average military recruit is giving up opportunities for fairly lucrative careers in the civilian sector, and as a result, it’s hard to get every soldier the military needs.

And this is for enlisted. Officers skew even farther towards the upper classes, having higher requirements to enter.

Anonymous Coward says:

How dumb is that?

Consider Reality Winner

Either she was too dumb to cover her tracks, or she was set up.

If she was that dumb, then why would you draft unwilling participants?

If she was set up, then why would anybody want to volunteer?

Good luck with that one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_Winner

The FBI realized the documents had been printed out because the PDF copies sent by The Intercept “appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space”.[23] Next, the NSA did an internal audit, confirming that Winner was one of six workers who had accessed the particular documents on its classified system, but only Winner’s computer had been in contact with The Intercept using a personal email account.

Save me a cookie says:

It won’t get up. The ass-ignorant yokels that support these ass-ignorant yokels love war and love the draft, but only wars involving directly bludgeoning people and such, and only drafting of imaginary young unemployed drug addicts, not real people.

Also, I can’t imagine any sort of insider threat program that could screen out the >20% of this demographic that *start* from a position of disgusted contempt for government.

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