The United States Navy announced this week that they intend to bring cyber officers in at mid-grade levels to ensure that they are able to come and go between the private and public sector and maintain a constant stream of knowledge in the increasingly vital field.
“[We need] the ability—when we talk about cyber—to bring people in and say, much like during World War II, ‘You are an amazing expert, you can come in as an O-4 or O-5,'” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, according to Military.com.
In addition to this, Spencer argued that these officers need the flexibility to move between the Navy or Marine Corps and the private sector without hurting their chances of promotion to secure their interest in staying in the service.
“You have to have an active offense to have a great defense,” Spencer said. “Cyber is not one or the other. It’s a continuum and it’s a process because, to stay current in defense, you have to know what’s going on in offense.”
Military.com reported the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has allowed for the easing of requirements, like moving officers out of the military if they did not receive a promotion within a certain timeframe, and allows for officers to be promoted faster, regardless of their particular class or time in a particular grade.
Those changes could reportedly make it easier for Naval and Marine officers to be sent into the private sector, refresh their skills, and then re-enter the military, in what is known as the “refresh concept”.
The Navy and Marine Corps could adopt at least some of these reforms in the near future.
“This ‘refresh concept,’ in whatever the discipline might be, to have that ability and have that person not step off the promotion ladder is one of the benefits we see from the [Defense Officer Personnel Management Act] reform,” Spencer told Military.com.
The need for improved cyberwar intel is critical at this juncture of the United States history.
Nations like Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China have attempted to infiltrate America’s infrastructure. However, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reportedly said Russia was a “by far” the most aggressive cyber foe, surpassing both China and Iran. America’s power grid has been vulnerable to foreign attacks for years.
Last month, experts at the Aspen Security Forum said Iran has been developing the necessary resources for a cyberweapons attack against the United States and European infrastructure.
In December 2015, the Associated Press reported: “About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on, according to top experts who spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.”
In October 2017, former United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that he was “largely disappointed” by Cyber Command’s (USCYBERCM) fight against the Islamic State.
I was largely disappointed in Cyber Command’s effectiveness against ISIS. It never really produced any effective cyber weapons or techniques. When CYBERCOM did produce something useful, the intelligence community tended to delay or try to prevent its use, claiming cyber operations would hinder intelligence collection. This would be understandable if we had been getting a steady stream of actionable intel, but we weren’t.
The State Department, for its part, was unable to cut through the thicket of diplomatic issues involved in working through the host of foreign services that constitute the Internet. In short, none of our agencies showed very well in the cyber fight. One exception was an international effort to combat ISIS’s hateful online presence with counter-messaging, an effort that did achieve significant reach and had a real impact.