Defense

Army Cyber is targeting civilians (for jobs)

Cybersecurity research 

The Army wants civilian cybersecurity professionals, and to find them it's rolling out two new initiatives designed to recruit and retain individuals with cyber expertise.

At a media roundtable, leaders in the Army Cyber Directorate and Army Cyber Command announced the programs, which officially launched in January.

The first is a pilot program to explore the efficacy and interest in direct commissions for cyber experts.

"So, much like we do with lawyers and doctors and other career fields for the Army, [the Department of Defense] asked us to do a pilot program by service looking at skillsets that we can bring on [with] direct commissioning into the cyber career field," said Brigadier General Patricia Frost, director of the Army Cyber Directorate that was created last year.

The Army is just beginning to flesh out the details of the pilot, including the budget. One of the only firm parameters so far is that the services have until 2020 to deliver their findings to Congress.

"I think this will be very interesting for us, because that's always been the question, right, if you have the skillset and you do this in the civilian type career field for industry, would you have an interest in coming in as a direct commission?" said Frost.

She said the recruiting effort has yet to begin, so there is no sense yet what level of interest there might be.

"I think it recognizes there are some unique contributions that the civilian workforce in this sector has to offer," said Brigadier General Joseph McGee, deputy commander for operations with Army Cyber Command.

"I think there's some indications that there's an appetite amongst industry to be able to do this, and I would point to the Defense Digital Services and that element that was stood up under the secretary of defense," he said.

In addition to the direct commission pilot, ARCYBER has created a new civilian cyber career track that mirrors the cyber career path for uniformed service members.

"Much like we have an intelligence career program and we have an IT career program, we will now have a cyberspace effects career program, which will help us give them a better chart of professional development for our civilians," said Frost.

She said that over the last two years as she conducted town hall events with Army civilian workers, she heard a constant call for a civilian cyber career program like that for soldiers and officers.

"They were asking for what compensation or what kind of professional development can they receive...what can we provide a civilian working in this space that might retain them?" said Frost.

Like the commission pilot, the civilian cyberspace effects program is still in stand-up mode and officials are working out the details.

McGee said these programs are part of a broader effort by the Army and the DOD to develop more agile human resources policies to meet cyber mission needs and retain talent.

He and Frost said there is no evidence that cyber soldiers and officers are leaving the service for higher-paying industry jobs, but retaining the growing numbers of cyber civilians is requiring new policies and initiatives.

"We're standing up a talent management cell within Army Cyber Command to continue to work many of the policy and ... procedures and even some of the legal issues in order to be able to develop a system that's responsive enough," said McGee. "And I think all of that shows tremendous promise going forward."

About the Author

Sean Carberry is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence. Prior to joining FCW, he was Kabul Correspondent for NPR, and also served as an international producer for NPR covering the war in Libya and the Arab Spring. He has reported from more than two-dozen countries including Iraq, Yemen, DRC, and South Sudan. In addition to numerous public radio programs, he has reported for Reuters, PBS NewsHour, The Diplomat, and The Atlantic.

Carberry earned a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and has a B.A. in Urban Studies from Lehigh University.


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Reader comments

Sat, Feb 18, 2017 Jay Tampa, FL

I think this is a very interesting decision in the DoD's effort to adapt to the National job market for these skills. 18 years ago, I left the Air Force for industry as a Captain. I loved my job in the then pre-"cyber" command information assurance space. But the AF Personnel Office was unable to make exceptions that would allow me to stay in the career field (it was a secondary AFSC for me) and maximize on the Air Force's significant investment in my excellent training. Several of us Captains at the time desired to stay in the service, but convention didn't account for the unique learning curve that resulted in moving young officers on to new assignments just as they learned the critical skills to be most effective. We argued, at the time, that the career field would need to be managed in some specialized ways to retain skilled officers and airmen. I am excited to see this decision to study the efficacy of such specialized considerations for personnel with cyber experience.

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