The cybersecurity labor market: staffing US Military Services.
N2K logoFeb 22, 2023

We continue our look at the cybersecurity workforce landscape, with special focus in this article on how US Military Services are structuring their cyber career fields.

The cybersecurity labor market: staffing US Military Services.

The ever-changing cyber labor market has seen stormy seas as 2023 has begun, and the US federal government and military have not been free from the effects. We continue our series on the cyber labor markets, with special attention to the US military cyber workforce.

The US has a Space Force. Does it need a Cyber Force, too?

There is some Congressional sentiment in favor of the possibility of establishing a new military Service, a Cyber Force, Breaking Defense reported earlier this month. Mark Montgomery, senior director of the Center on Cyber Technology and Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems (CITI) Subcommittee that there needs to be an examination of whether, “the current design of the Cyber Mission Force is what we need for the 21st century, or should we be considering an independent cyber force as we’ve recently done with the Space Force.” The subcommittee’s chairman, Wisconsin lawmaker Mike Gallagher, is said to be open to the idea, but believes the creation of more bureaucracy so soon after the creation of US Space Force may be grounds for hesitation.

Among the challenges any Cyber Force would face would be recruiting and training qualified personnel. In any case, the existing Services already face those challenges.

The US Navy's evolving cyber strategy addresses career fields.

The US Navy is also said to have plans for a new cyber strategy coming “in a month or so,” Chris Cleary, the Navy’s principal cyber advisor said last week, accoridng to Breaking Defense. The service plans to make sure that their cyber priorities are in alignment with the Pentagon’s larger strategy for cyberspace. The strategy will be a more fleshed-out version of last October’s Navy Cyberspace Superiority Vision, which listed secure, survive and strike as the three principles guiding the improvement of the Naval cyber strategy and posture. The Naval’s existing cyber job rating, known as cryptologic technician networks (CTN), said to be “a job that requires cyber skills 93% of the time,” is planning an enlisted rating name change that is better reflective of the work of those in these positions, the Navy Times divulged last Wednesday. 1,900 CTNs in the fleet are expected to be given their own cyber rating, as they are moved out of the cryptologic series.

The US Army looks at recruiting and developing talent.

All the Services face challenges in recruiting cyber-qualified personnel. The US Army held its Cyber Leadership Conference (CLC) at West Point from the 30th of January through the first of February. Chief Warrant Officer 3, Justin Helphenstine, is currently tactical director at the Cyber National Mission Force, and has made it his mission to bring in new cadets and teach them about the cyber domain and what it means for the Army. Brigadier General Brian D. Vile, commandant of the U.S. Army Cyber School, said that the event does a good job of attracting new talent to the force’s cyber branch and emphasizing the important role of the cyber domain in the Army’s posture. Events like this are intended to expose cadets to what may be an unamiliar career field.

“I was an infantry guy. I could lead an infantry platoon today, and I could do it quite well, and it's been 26 years since I led an infantry platoon,” said General Vile. “In cyber, the domain changes so fast -- technology changes so fast that we rely on our junior Soldiers, warrant officers and our future lieutenants to be the experts of the domain. So, we listen very closely. The electromagnetic spectrum portion of our mission changes all the time. And so, whether they know it or not, they have a significant vote in the direction of the force.”

Thus the entire field of military cybersecurity remains protean, rapidly changing, and still undergoing integration into Service cultures and practices. As those cultures and practices evolve, they will certainly require innovative approaches to training and education for military personnel.

For more on the cyber labor market, see CyberWire Pro.

For more on the US Department of Defense approach to its cyber workforce, see CyberWire Pro.