Pentagon targets recruitment, high-tech training

The Defense Department is taking measures to ensure it attracts and retains the best and the brightest of the nation's young people to run the military's hightech systems

Without young people with skills in information technology and the potential to learn high-tech jobs, the Defense Department's vision for creating a technology-driven, network-centric military will not be attainable, according to a report signed by Defense Secretary William Cohen.

The Pentagon's Annual Report to the President and the Congress, released on Wednesday, outlined a wide range of initiatives the Defense Department feels are necessary to ensure that it can attract and retain the right people with the right skills to lead it into the 21st century. The Pentagon's plan, according to Cohen's report, centers on establishing new career fields for IT-focused missions and a global distance-learning campaign.

The Army, for example, recently established several new career fields, including Information Systems Engineering and Information Operations. Likewise, the Air Force is studying ways to develop a job specialty code or special experience identifier to track individuals that have training or experience in the burgeoning field of information operations.

The Navy also has focused attention on 21st century work force issues by studying how to restructure tours of duty for junior surface warfare officers as a means of promoting "creativity and innovation and [taking] advantage of new technologies," the report states.

"The department is seeking to create an environment conducive to bold innovation," the report states.

Cohen's annual report also confirms plans that have been floating around the Pentagon for more than a year to create a "virtual unit within the reserve component staffed by information technology specialists to assist the active forces in developing capabilities and conducting various types of information operations."

To ensure that high-tech training is readily available to all of these would-be high-tech warriors, the Pentagon has also begun planning for what it calls "the learning environment of the future." According to the report, it will focus on students receiving training and education via a global learning network. The global network "will utilize a common framework for learning software and learning content that will provide opportunities for reuse...across...organizations on an unprecedented scale," the report states.

DOD trainees and students will have a broad range of options available to them through this global learning network, according to the report, including distributed simulations, embedded training capabilities and intelligent systems designed to meet individual and situation-dependent needs.

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