As The Battleground For Warfare Moves To Cyberspace, DOD Contemplates Altering Recruitment Requirements

from the getting-basic dept

While we've viewed much of the hyped up discussions about cyberwarfare with some trepidation here, we now live in a reality where it would be clearly silly to suggest that the internet and internet-connected devices are not an emerging battleground for rival nations. While much was made these past few years about what mostly amounted to the penetration of private business networks, the discussion about several democratic elections throughout the country and the clear interference in them, potentially by state actors, has pushed the overdrive button on all of this. As you can imagine, groups in charge of defense for the nations of the world have been paying attention, including the US Department of Defense.

But it seems the DoD has a problem: it isn't meeting its recruitment goals for its Cyber Command division.

The US military is having a hard time getting people with essential information technology and information security skill sets as the services struggle to build a force of "cyber-warriors." During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, senators focused in part on how the work force problem is affecting the US Cyber Command's (US CYBERCOM's) ability to deal with the demands of information warfare and threats both to the Defense Department's networks and those of other agencies and industry.

The goal put in place for the DoD was to have CYBERCOM fully operational by 2018. Michael Rogers stated at the hearing that he believed that goal could still be met, but the larger problem of keeping CYBERCOM operational was driven by a lack of bulk in qualified personnel. Senator John McCain noted part of the problem is that CYBERCOM officers slated for duty have routinely been rotated out of that role when deployed on tour. It seems there isn't a full commitment by some branches of the military that are likewise generally hurting for bodies. The partnerships the DoD has forged with organizations like the National Science Foundation, the Office of Personnel Management, and DHS to promote its CyberCorps scholarship program haven't managed to fill the ranks, either.

Mostly, this comes down to recruiting requirements.

But as Rogers noted in his testimony, "We need a broad range of skills, and many of the best candidates won't necessarily have advanced educations but have deep experience in the field." And the problem won't be fixed with the military's current approach to workforce development, Rogers acknowledged. "We can't keep relying on five- to ten-year development cycles in terms of manpower," he said.

That will require a radical departure from the military's usual approach to recruiting—particularly since few people who already have the skills the DOD wants would be drawn to the typical military recruitment cycle. People who are usually drawn to the military would require years of training to meet the services' needs. But Rogers was insistent that, whatever the solution, it wouldn't be a separate "cyber force," because the military needs personnel who had the context of the overall mission. Only people embedded in the military would have that.

Except that this sentiment is belied by some of the proposed changes to recruitment currently be considered by the DoD. The headline-grabber of these proposals is the one that would allow new recruits for CYBERCOM to skip basic training altogether.

One of the possible solutions that the DOD has looked at is bringing people with experience and skills essential to offensive and defensive cyber operations into the service "laterally." That means giving them ranks (and pay grades) commensurate to their skills and entirely bypassing the normal recruitment and advancement process.

Even the Marine Corps, which has long required all marines to go through the same basic rifleman training, is considering changes. The potential changes include allowing people with sought-after skills to enter the Corps directly as noncommissioned officers and skip boot camp.

There is some precedent for this, though that precedent doesn't translate particularly well. The Ars post refers to how the Marines have allowed recruits for the Marine Corps Band to join with this kind of lateral entry, where recruits simply audition for the band as opposed to going through basic training. But that sort of lateral entry is worlds away from having active soldiers in the ranks that are actively engaged in what the DoD claims is a pivotal battlefield as opposed to playing Hail to the Chief in the Rose Garden. The dropping of basic training would need to be coupled with a relaxed education requirement, as many of the most talented individuals in technology can often boast an almost clean slate of educational achievement, while still being the best at what they do.

Regardless, we talk all the time about how technology drives change and innovation. It seems even the military branches are not immune from this.


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 1:38pm

    Black Comedy Ensues

    My expectation is that US cyber-defense and US cyber-offense will go to war with each other, ignoring the rest of the world. Most of the battlefront will be over who gets the most funding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TSO, 18 May 2017 @ 1:41pm

      Re: Black Comedy Ensues

      "Soviets are not our enemy — they are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy." — Curtis LeMay, General, US Air Force

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 18 May 2017 @ 3:58pm

        Re: Re: Black Comedy Ensues

        Unfortunately you don't know how true that sentiment is between the navy and air force.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 22 May 2017 @ 2:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Black Comedy Ensues

          I'd be interested to learn where that came from. What got them at each others' throats?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 May 2017 @ 9:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Black Comedy Ensues

            Before the Navy got airplanes, the Air Force took them away from the Army Air Corp, who were the only ones that had them, at the time. Jealousy (aka protecting ones turf) and power (if we have the power then we are more necessary and get more funding) has long been part of the Military Industrial Complex. I can just imagine what the Navy and Air Force had to say when the Marines got airplanes too.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 2:23pm

      Re: Black Comedy Ensues

      Ignore funding, it's only a side issue. The purpose of cyber-offense would, by necessity, in large part consist of keeping exploits hidden from cyber-defense. And knowing this cyber-defense would, by necessity, devote a great deal of time to getting those exploits.

      Even if both groups were legally guaranteed exactly equal funding they would still be forced to go to war with each other.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 1:43pm

    Interesting omission

    While the reasons given in the article are likely valid, there is another major contributor that is completely glossed over. The people qualified for this type of work are likely to know enough about the organizational structures to recognize that, while they are not working directly for the surveillance state, they are working disturbingly close to it. I suspect that many of the qualified individuals would find that to be a disincentive to join.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 1:45pm

      Re: Interesting omission

      And don't forget that they are also more likely not to be able to pass drug tests than your average marine. Or have minor criminal records. Or have problems with authority.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 3:16pm

        Re: Re: Interesting omission

        Funny how stupid prohibitionism and rampant prison economy start interfering with military capability.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 9:24am

          Re: Re: Re: Interesting omission

          well... when you just need a few killing machines...

          It just looks better when you put on the facade that their origin matters.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 18 May 2017 @ 2:03pm

      Re: Interesting omission -- disillusionment

      I suspect that this generation (millenials) is also mightily disillusioned about what our government is up to...especially those with the necessary sort of minds to be good at "cyber".

      It's a function of the increased diffusion of information. We know about much of the bad stuff our government has done, it's no longer hard to find.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 3:24pm

      "Just ignore all that 'recent history' stuff, we're the Good Guys, promise."

      That was my first thought as well. The people with the skills they want are also likely to be people who want nothing to do with them for any number of good reasons, 'toxic reputation' being a big one.

      The white hats are likely to have the clean records required to join but have too much integrity to do so, whereas the black hats lack the integrity but have records that would prohibit recruitment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 5:04pm

      Re: Interesting omission

      Private enterprise/parties will pay a whole lot better for those with the right skills. Also, the US military just doesn't reward independent, unconventional, abstract thinkers in the rank and file. It goes out of its way to prevent that sort of thing.

      They would need to create a new branch of the military with it's own culture.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 6:33pm

        Re: Re: Interesting omission

        "They would need to create a new branch of the military with it's own culture."

        I think this is the right thing, too. It should be organized more like a corporation. Something that isn't really close to the "normal" Armed Services. Each service could request resources to meet their missions/objectives.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 9:26am

          Re: Re: Re: Interesting omission

          So here we are, talking about giving government more agencies in which to destroy MORE liberty in the same venue that we are discussing their sins and incompetence.

          it is sad that this does not rate higher on the WTF-o-meter with you guys.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2017 @ 10:54pm

      Re: Interesting omission

      Indeed. It is the same problem the FBI, CIA and all 3-letter angencies have.

      Smart people dont want to walk for "the man".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SirWired (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 2:36pm

    Not particularly unusual

    While "Lateral Entry" might be new for Enlisted ranks, it's quite common for certain kinds of officers... Lawyers, Doctors, Chaplains, etc. They go through "Officer Indoctrination School" (degree already in-hand) and BAM! instant commission.

    I could totally see the same thing for "Cyber Troops" or whatever they want to call them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 4:02pm

      Re: Not particularly unusual

      I can see the hazing begin already. Now imagine you have both nerds and marines and the nerds didn't even go through basic in the same area. It will be a rough start I'm sure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 2:53pm

    no problem

    "Mostly, this comes down to recruiting requirements."


    IOW it's just a plain old economic supply/demand/price issue.

    If one is having trouble hiring enough workers with a particular skill set... one sweetens the deal offered to potential hires -- better pay/benefits, working conditions, special treatment, etc. DoD even pays the tuition for selected college students in exchange for future commitment to enlist upon graduation.

    This is routine stuff for military personnel managers. Military doctors, lawyers, pilots, chaplains, etc ... all get very special treatment to attract/retain sufficient numbers. It's cyclic as requirements change.

    Hiring enough Information Technology personnel is not a big problem-- it's just a question of money and minor military policy adjustments. Also, wearing a uniform is not a hard requirement-- plenty of GS federal civilians work directly for DoD, along with tons of civilian technical contractors on site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Howard, 18 May 2017 @ 3:20pm

    Weed

    Like the FBI, they'll have trouble recruiting people unless they relax the rules on smoking weed, or even start providing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 4:27pm

    Election Interference

    "...the discussion about several democratic elections throughout the country and the clear interference in them, potentially by state actors..."

    You might want to consider applying some of that "trepidation" you got going on around here concerning cyberwar, to the hyped up discussions surrounding state actors' interference in democratic elections.

    Because, if you actually take the time to familiarize yourself with the subject at all (and I highly encourage to do so), what you'll find is a very long history of exactly such interference conducted by all nations. This is especially true of the US which interferes in sovereign foreign democratic elections as a normal course of conducting matters of state.

    And if you take a little more time, you'll discover that election interference is one of the most mild forms of foreign policy interference (as the leadership of countries engage in much more extreme interference on a regular basis - again, this is especially true of the US).

    To suggest that the very normal occurrence of election interference somehow ups the ante ("has pushed the overdrive button on all of this") in making the case for cyberwar, is to naively buy into the highly convenient, self-serving, propagandistic narrative that currently infests our news cycles.

    Given the timing of the rise that narrative, and who is propagating it, and how they directly benefit from it, AND ESPECIALLY given the well known, long time practice of interference in democratic elections by ALL of the more powerful nations, you have to be in complete denial of your confirmation bias not to acknowledge that this narrative is way more likely to a component in a contrived smear campaign than it is to be a reason to justify cyberwar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 4:57pm

    I want to join the NSA. What do you think of that? - Cory Doctorow

    "We talked about the State Department’s projects to protect privacy and anonymity online, like the Tor project, and the new work that the National Institute on Standards and Technology was doing to recover from the NSA’s program of sabotage on its standards. I told him that his government had a lot of initiatives that needed good people to help truly improve the security of cyberspace.

    He told me he’d think about it, and I believe him. Because America does have a cybersecurity problem – but the NSA is part of it."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 5:23pm

    Military harder

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 5:23pm

    Military harder

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Champion, 18 May 2017 @ 10:10pm

    allow me to tell you why - the real reason

    a long time ago in a far far away ...time....the us govt said hey come to the usa hackers we'll emplou you...so two russians went and as others of us prepared top go , a week after they arrived they jsut went and arrested them....

    thus ended any trust your nation had of EVER gaining any of us to come to work for you....

    IT also added to whomever i am's power base and in no time flat yours truly had forged in 74 nations over 3300 actual hackers in about 150 groups

    a true united hackers association

    go find our website
    HA its not there and for a reason we dont use the net to "talk" to each other either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 19 May 2017 @ 2:03pm

    Hackers Aren't Soldiers

    The real problem here is that hackers aren't soldiers. I'd hardly call myself a hacker (I mean I do know my way around most of the common tools, but any idiot can learn that) but I have friends who I'd totally call that. Guess what I, they, and every other hacker I've ever even heard of have in common?

    We're not soldiers.

    We're (mostly) overweight (some are underweight, but I can't think of a single one I'd describe as "fit") and even if we weren't, absolutely zero of us are willing to have our faces slammed in mud, crawling under razor wire with an M16 on our backs long enough to pass basic training.

    Why? Because unlike soldiers, our bodies aren't our weapons. Our minds are our weapons. We aren't soldiers, and you won't convince us to work for you by treating us like soldiers with keyboards.

    I actually spoke to a recruitment officer at length a couple years ago. He said they couldn't waive basic training for anyone. I told him "this is why you have the best hackers within the military, instead of the best hackers in the country." He sighed and simply said "yeah, I know."

    Maybe the DOD needs to speak with their own recruiters and ask THEM what the problem is?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 19 May 2017 @ 3:44pm

    Help Wanted: US Department of War Seeks Cannonfodder for Empire

    As The Battleground For Warfare Moves To Cyberspace, DOD Contemplates Altering Recruitment Requirements

    Regardless of how much DOD (ie Department of War) alters it's recruitment requirements any person (hackers too) with a shred of integrity/morality would decline to serve.

    Everything the US Department of War is based upon is a lie as is the euphemism Department of Defense.

    This generations generals/admirals willingly sacrifice American sons/daughters for light and transient reasons that have absolutely zero to do with national defense.

    The heel clickers, flag saluters, fruit cocktail beribboned yes men and true believers operating within the Department of War have no trouble what so ever squandering trillions upon trillions of US dollars on boondoggles of all shapes and sizes while sacrificing our loved ones upon the merchants of death blood stained alter of war.

    If you are a tech savvy youngster you most not allow yourselves to be swayed by the Department of Wars siren song of death and destruction. The beast will swallow you whole.

    If you are a winter patriot (eg Edward Snowden) and would enjoy serving your nation (not the criminal government) then your should work tirelessly at liberating information from the clutches of the criminal government in Washington DC and then release that information into the wild to help enlighten your fellow country men/women as to the extent of political rot that afflicts us.

    Until such a time arrives ignorance, propaganda and war criminals will continue to hold the field of public opinion and thus the levers of power within government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 20 May 2017 @ 1:06pm

    The Chain

    I already commented here re: their recruitment issues, but after reading everyone else's comments, I had to come back and mention one more thing.

    All of you anti-war flowers (that's not an insult, btw. flowers are awesome.) need to remember something that you somehow failed to understand during Vietnam: the military chain of command doesn't give two flying s**ts about your protests. That chain cannot be broken by public protest, no matter how vocal or how many nights of sleep you cost the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    If you want to break the chain of command, you have to first become a link in that chain. Only when every single hacker within cybercom unite and refuse to follow an unlawful order will any actual, palpable change actually occur. Standing outside the fire and complaining it's burning your house down isn't going to save it. If you want to make a difference here, you're going to have to get yourselves a little toasty.

    This is the same as the government at large, btw. You can stay home or vote for the silly green party if you want, but if you want real, actual change, you'll have to either stick an R or a D beside your name and change it from within during the primaries. Say whatever you want about the DNC and the RNC, but Trump's election and Sanders's near-miss are both proof that this can be done. With enough support, you CAN hijack the DNC or the RNC and ride it all the way to the white house, but you CAN NOT win this thing as an Independent, so stop trying, please.

    It's cramped, smelly, and uncomfortable inside the Trojan horse, but you ain't taking Troy any other way.

    (I swear I've never used so many metaphors in my life. Sorry.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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