Army cyber chief wants more failure

Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon says a freer attitude toward experimentation would yield better results for Army Cyber Command.

It's a common refrain in the development world these days – developers need the freedom and space to fail faster. The agile way of thinking is reaching into the tradition-bound U.S. Army, at least at the level of its top cyber commander, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon.

The failure rate, right now, in his command is "about zero." This is because projects are carefully scoped out, budgeted by Congress, and nurtured by leaders whose promotion hinges on success. "Maybe we need 150 little experiments in which we expect only 10 or 15 to pan out," Cardon said in a keynote at a May 28 cybersecurity symposium hosted by AFCEA's Washington, D.C., chapter. Cardon said that with more freedom for continuous experimentation, the Army and cyber forces across the military could build more capability for lower cost and with more efficient use of personnel.

The head of Army Cyber Command said his service was "most likely" going to follow through on plans to create a cyber branch, along the lines of aviation or special ops, to give cyber warriors a career path through the service. The Army was on pace, Cardon said, to supply about 2,000 of the 6,000 fully-trained cyber soldiers that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to have active by 2016. Cardon is also excited about plans for an Army cybersecurity center at Fort Gordon in Georgia, where a National Security Agency installation is already in place. Cyber is the only instance where "the institutional side of the army is co-located with its operational component," he said. That move is scheduled to take place in 2018.

The military's top cyber official and NSA Director, Adm. Michael Rogers, also spoke at the AFCEA event. Where his predecessor in the joint command, Gen. Keith Alexander, was a career signals intelligence and technology specialist, Rogers enjoys harking back to his days as a ship commander for his vision of cyber warfare.

"If we treat this as something specialized or technical or only the CIOs, sixes [members of the J6 IT directorate] or the IT team has to deal with, we are not going to get where we need to be," Rogers said.

He also suggested that the operational needs of the mission need to guide how military networks are constructed.

"I've argued in the past that we've built networks, then created the operational constructs to match the network," he said. Instead, commanders should design an operational construct, and let CIOs and other technical staff "figure out what is the network you build to meet that operation," Rogers said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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