For Army cyber, it's on-the-job training

Army Cyber Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris says the Army is learning as it goes along in the uncharted terrain of cybersecurity.

Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris said the Army's new cyber branch is studying how other public and private organizations recruit cybersecurity professionals.

The command sergeant major who is helping the Army develop its new branch for cybersecurity issues is confident that, despite the organizational challenges, the command can meet Army leaders' expectations for improving the service's cybersecurity capabilities.

The other military services "don't have the operational requirement to push cyber capabilities down to the tactical level like the Army does," Cyber Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris said in a recent interview. "So that's a unique aspect and another reason why this branch is going to help us do that."

The new cybersecurity branch, established by Army Secretary John McHugh in September, equates cybersecurity with more traditional Army career paths such as infantry. The branch is meant to attract cybersecurity talent as the Army, like the other military services, tries to increase the number of trained experts in the field. It is also supposed to consolidate specialists in cyber-related fields such as electronic warfare, signals intelligence and military intelligence under one roof.

Harris said the new branch is less of a shift in the Army's approach to offense or defense in cyberspace and more of a "realization or an evolution in the process because cyber capabilities have been around for quite a long time." In the past few years, Defense Department leaders have decided they needed to extend those capabilities throughout the military services, he added.

Recruiting the cybersecurity professionals needed to staff the new branch is crucial. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for U.S. Cyber Command, the hub for coordination between the services' cyber commands, to have more than 6,000 staff by 2016. Cyber Command Director Adm. Michael Rogers told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Nov. 20 that the command has met about 40 percent of that personnel target.

Harris said he and his colleagues have studied how other public and private organizations have recruited cyber talent. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Verizon and Google all offer lessons in building a cybersecurity workforce, he added.

Although the new Army branch needs to attract many more recruits, Harris said, "we're not having a hard time finding the right talent at the tactical execution point of cyber operations."

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