Cyber is among new USAF competitive career categories

Air Force cyber warriors at Port San Antonio (Air Force)  

The Air Force is rolling out seven new competitive career categories for officers that will include cyber, intelligence, and space as a way to boost promotion, training and talent retention, the service announced April 11.

"There needs to be different paths for the development of our career fields," Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, told reporters at a media roundtable event. "The things that we value and the things that we need to emphasize between career fields might not always be the same."

The initiative, which has been underway for nearly two years, will allow officers to compete for promotion against others in their career field who have similar duties and skills, rather than across the entire Air Force.

"We can't have a one-size-fits-all developmental path," Kelly said, "to reach our potential in all of these areas."

The new categories include cybersecurity, space, intelligence and others yet to be named. They're expected to debut later this spring at the earliest, Kelly said.

Internal studies have shown that airmen are more successful and get promoted higher when allowed to pick their job categories and train with those who have similar duties, Kelly said.

The competitive category expansion is limited to seven for now, but other tech-specific disciplines such as electronic warfare or data science could be considered in the future, he said.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson first announced the move April 2 during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, highlighting the importance of cyber workers having their own competitive category.

"We have a structure where we have a lot of officers who are on cyber mission teams," doing offensive, defensive and network operations jobs, but "very few of them are going to be on a traditional path" that includes promotion to a flight, squadron, group or wing commander, Kelly said.

Kelly said the new category for cyber would open up opportunities for different educational requirements and distinct expectations for cyber jobs in the Joint Force and Air Force.

"Today folks feel like they have to go through and do certain things because that's the standard model for the entire category," he said. "It should help with retention and satisfaction."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


  • Defense
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) reveal concept renderings for the Next NGA West (N2W) campus from the design-build team McCarthy HITT winning proposal. The entirety of the campus is anticipated to be operational in 2025.

    How NGA is tackling interoperability challenges

    Mark Munsell, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s CTO, talks about talent shortages and how the agency is working to get more unclassified data.

  • Veterans Affairs
    Veterans Affairs CIO Jim Gfrerer speaks at an Oct. 10 FCW event (Photo credit: Troy K. Schneider)

    VA's pivot to agile

    With 10 months on the job, Veterans Affairs CIO Jim Gfrerer is pushing his organization toward a culture of constant delivery.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.