Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Conti and Easterly on Cyber Warriors

Thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Conti and Lieutenant Colonel Jen Easterly for pointing me to their article Recruiting, Development, and Retention of Cyber Warriors Despite an Inhospitable Culture. They are doing a real service by examining cultural issues challenging the success of a Cyber Command.

I'd like to provide a few excerpts:

Until the end of the 20th Century combat arms expertise ruled the day, but in the 21st Century kinetic combat arms soldiers must learn to co-exist, cooperate, and coordinate with non-kinetic cyber warriors...

[E]xperience gained to date in building the Army Network Warfare Battalion (ANWB) overwhelmingly points to the critical need for a career path to effectively recruit, manage and retain cyber talent...

In the world of cyber warfare, experts such as Mr. Kaminksy are the “Chesty Pullers” of the 21st Century...

The problem often lies not in the talent or desire of these individuals, but in inflexible military human resource systems...

A big question is when to allow personnel to join a cyber warfare force. Should this occur immediately upon joining the service, or at a later point, after the individual has had operational, possibly even combat, experience. We believe the cyber force would be best enriched by allowing both options...

Regardless of entry point, though, care should be taken to select only those with a true passion and capacity for cyber warfare, not those with careerist or other ambitions. Under no circumstances should an individual be forced into a cyber warfare assignment. To fall into any of these traps will certainly create an unhealthy work environment that encourages talent to leave and undermines mission accomplishment...

Cyber Command must take advantage of the prior experience of incoming personnel, and link it closely with cyber-related career fields rather than the current haphazard approach that wastes years of academic preparation. In addition, we should identify talent as early as possible and track their careers, reaching out to them at an appropriate time...

We cannot build a professional cyber warfare force without viable cyber warfare career fields within each service. Recreating the current model that rotates personnel into and out of cyber assignments is insufficient. It drains training resources, induces skillset atrophy and encourages the departure of our best and brightest. For many specialists, an assignment away from their skill area is reason enough to leave the force...

We will know we have succeeded when we have General Officers, Sergeants Major, Senior Warrant Officers, Master Chiefs, and Chief Master Sergeants that are products of a pure cyber warfare career.


All of the above speaks to my experience, directly. What do you think?

7 comments:

Mister Reiner said...

Spot-on.

Adam said...

WOW! I would have never expected this coming from a Soldier. But none the less I agree, with everything. I believe that our current method of everything is stopping point for so many.

I also like the bit from their Slashdot question. (reminds me how much I hate the fact that the guy handing out towels get the same pay as me).

David said...

Excellent article. It also looks like LTC Conti is looking for a place in CYBERCOM? :)

A lot of the talk amongst senior folks I've seen has centered around policy, which is great and also important, but then I ask where they're going to get the people and they look at me like I've got three heads. Or they simply want to go out and buy a solution.

There is still little to no appreciation that operating in this domain is not as simple as handing Cpl Bloggins his 'cyber weapon' (computer workstation?) and telling him to aim over there.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting topic. Full Disclosure I am a retired Army Officer and have had the honor of being involved with “cyber operations” since before Cyber Command was ever conceptualized. For sure there are HUGE challenges ahead with Cyber Command, but most are not really “military in nature”, we can and will recruit and train deadly cyber warriors. We are good at that, we will partner with marginally legal hacker groups, no problem. We do things like that in combat all the time (ref. my time in Afghanistan) . Most of the real challenges are going to be political, Congress and the National Command Authority do not like things they do not understand. They will see CyerWarfare as a covert operation and as such will be distrustful of it. I can tell you first hand that there are people in the DoD that understand how to run a CyberWar, they know what to do, where to acquire talent, and how to employ it. I had to laugh at a comment about knuckle draggers Of which I am one, Infantry, Airborne, SOF but also a Network Security Architect, CISSP, DoD trained in CyberWarfae both in IO and IW. There is so much being done in this field that cannot be discussed in this forum. Only a fraction of what is being done is unclassified and in the open. I hope Conti and those like him do end up at CyberCommand. One of the issues that the Big Army has to deal with is that of how to employ Cyber Forces. I suspect and hope that DoD realizes and utilizes them just as they would any other Special Operations Command (SOC). Yes they have special rules, yes they have special pay, yes they have special missions and yes they are special people. In my time with group, I found no “normal” soldiers. They are all a bit different, and thats how CyberComm will have to manage their assets. The model is already built, the DoD just needs to apply it. The downside is that there are a lot of people who do not like the SOC model, they do not trust it and in my mind quite frankly are very jealous of it so they fight against it..

Clive Robinson said...

A few points to note.

Traditional kinetic weapons soldiers such as infantry have a very limited lifetime due to the natural ageing process and are in many cases getting close to past it in their thirties.

This is not true of "grey matter" warriors with specialist skills, they are hardly getting started at thirty and can still be pulling very significant punches well beyond normal civilian retirment age.

To offer a real career path the armed forces will have to realise that kicking "grey matter" warriors out simply because they have reached the age limit for "kinetic soldiers" is a waste of very valuble very hard won resources.

Also the forces need to realise that a career path for a specialist does not have to include the normal "rank" promotion, in fact this can have a detrimental effect (Majors and above are often just managers not specialist practitioners).

Secondly the armed forces need to consider what a "grey matter" warrior is worth, pay can be low for "kinetic soldiers" as there is little in the way of non forces work to draw them out, not so for "grey matter" warriors with specialist skills that have a high premium in the civilian world.

Again pay should not be linked to "rank" for specialists.

Essentially the forces need a third structure away from the "Officers and Other Ratings" to allow specialists to develop.

This is esspecially true as less and less "contact with the enemy" happens these days as more and more kinetic weapons become both "smart" and "stand off". Even traditional picket deployment for defence is so agumented by technology that the "knuckle dragging" "Ground Reconacance Unit Nearly Tactical (GRUNT) is in danger of extinction.

We have seen this happen indirectly as some specialists come in as "consultants" or as "part time soldiers" this realy only works in peace time not in actual conflict for a number of reasons (which I don't intend listing for obvious reasons).

Unless the armed forces get a grip and address these issues all other incentives etc will be for nothing because the civilian world has moved on atleast a century beyond their current structure.

Ron B said...

My my ... what a difference a decade makes. I remember several eager and talented CGOs making the case to higher ups that such a corps was necessary - only to be told by senior leadership that "cyber warriors" were gravy, not the meat and potatoes. We left en masse.

As an aside, one of my last tours was in a cyber warfare shop. I vehemently state, with a loud and booming voice, "Nothing can be worse than an umotivated troop who neither understands, desires or cares to be part of the Cyber Warfare mission".

rbknny said...

Ultimately, I believe the US will have to create a new military service. We have the US Army for land forces, the US Navy for waterborne forces, the USAF for air forces, and the Marines as a rapid response force. We will have to eventually create a US Cyber force for the cyber battlespace. It will be highly political and the existing services will resist because huge budgets are involved.