Having the right people in the right places with the right training is the best defense against any attack, and this is as true in the cyber world as it is on battlefields Afghanistan, military commanders charged with improving capabilities in the cyber world told Congress.
Navy Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers, commander of the 10th Fleet; Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, commander of 2nd Army; Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander of Marine Corps Development Command; and Maj. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, commander of 24th Air Force testified before the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats subcommittee and described what the services are doing to attract and retain the best people.
And this is a problem, they said, because government and the private sector are worried about defending data and networks from attacks.
Cyber war is complicated, the commanders said, because defending systems demands world-class engineers and technicians and the military must compete with other public agencies and the private sector in attracting these world-class specialists.
“The Navy’s workforce is perhaps our greatest strength in this emerging discipline,” said Rogers, who has commanded the 10th Fleet – the Navy’s Cyber Command – for about a year. “Our sailors and civilians are at the forefront of advances in cyberspace operations.”
The changing nature of the cyber world complicates the effort to recruit and retain cyber specialists, Rogers said. The Navy has established a summer intern program at the Naval Academy and with ROTC to expose midshipmen to the cyber defense world, and has established the cyber engineer career field to allow direct accessions for a few recent college graduates with deep cyber expertise, he told the panel.
“While the Navy cannot compete with the compensation offered by industry, we provide individuals with unique opportunities that they cannot receive out in industry, and the highly motivated Navy cyber workforce is opting to stay Navy at record levels,” the admiral said.
His sailors, Rogers said, are warriors. They know they are working to protect not only data, but also the country, and they know that, and it motivates them, he told the representatives.
Soldiers also recognize that they are warriors fighting in a different kind of war, Hernandez said. The Army is working to exercise all cyber warriors in the skills they need to defend networks and data.
“We will integrate cyberspace operations into 13 joint and Army exercises this fiscal year, and will double that number next year,” the general said. The service also is using cyber specialists to play opposing forces in exercises at the National Training Center and at combatant command exercises.
The Air Force continues to stress the need for Americans with science and mathematics backgrounds, Vautrinot said, and works with high schools and colleges to encourage and mentor students involved in science and mathematics.
Overall, attacks in the cyber world are a serious threat, the military leaders agreed, so education, training and development of cyber defense professionals needs to continue unabated.