Cyber War Recruiting Comes Up Light

May 26, 2011
Cyber Security, FedCyber Wire
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via Strategy Page

May 25, 2011: U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) has been operational for over six months now, and it is encountering some serious problems. Headquartered in Fort Meade (outside Washington, DC), most of the manpower, and capabilities, come from the Cyber War operations the services have already established. U.S. Cyber Command has some smaller organizations that coordinate Cyber War activities among the services, as well as with other branches of the government and commercial organizations that are involved in network security.

The big problems are recruiting and managing hackers (technical personnel who can deal with the bad-guy hackers out there). The problem is one of culture, and economics. The military is a strict hierarchy that does not, at least in peacetime, reward creativity. Troops with good technical skills can make more money, and get hassled less, in a similar civilian job. The military is aware of these problems, but it is slow going trying to fix them.

There have been efforts to fix things. Three years ago, the new U.S. Air For Cyber Command asked for some leeway in recruiting standards and military lifestyle, in order to get the kind of airmen they need. In a word, the air force needed geeks, and many of the recruits being sought could not pass the physical fitness test, or tolerate the usual military discipline. The more expensive (and increasingly unaffordable) alternative was hiring Internet engineers and hackers as civilians, and signing them to contracts that would be the equivalent of the kind of control and security they have over military personnel. That approach has long used to get technical personnel who can do the job, but are not willing to do it in uniform, as part of a military unit, with military discipline and all of that. The air force has, in the meantime, raised its standards for physical fitness, making it more difficult for out-of-shape geeks to get in. But the air force has noted that some hackers are late bloomers. Since air force recruits are the brightest and best educated of all the services, it’s been decided to try and identify and train Internet techs from among the new airmen, and then attempt to keep them in for more than one four-year enlistment.