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.