Cyber Defense

Army's new Cyber branch looking to recruit talent

As the military continues to trim down following the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the one growth area is in cyber defense. All of the military services’ cyber divisions, along with the overarching U.S. Cyber Command, plan to steadily increase their number of cyber warriors over the next two years, to help protect networks and combat the growing threats from other countries.

The problem is in finding and retaining enough skilled cyber operators, which are in short supply not only in the military but in the private sector, making the competition for talent all the more fierce. The Army, for its part, is looking develop talent from within its own ranks, creating a new Cyber Branch and developing incentives to attract and retain those who want to pursue cyber defense and cyber warfare as a military career.

Since early September, the Army has activated a Cyber Protection Brigade, established the Cyber Branch, and created a new 17-series cyber career field for managing the professional careers of officers.

"The establishment of a Cyber branch shows how important and critical the cyber mission is to our Army, and allows us to focus innovative recruiting, retention, leader development, and talent management needed to produce world-class cyberspace professionals," Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commanding general of Army Cyber Command, said in a release.

The career management field for cyber operators, CMF 17, will be divided according to occupational specialties, such as CMF 17A for cyber warfare officers and CMF 17C for cyber warfare specialists. The branch has accepted its first six officers in the 17A area of concentration, five of whom will be assigned to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Meade, Md., while the other will go to the Cyber Protection Brigade at Fort Gordon, Ga.

By October 2015, the Army plans to establish the rest of the 17-series for enlisted personnel and warrant officers. Enlisted soldiers in the branch will be designated 17C (cyber operations specialist) and while warrant officers will be 170A (cyber operations technicians).

Much of the effort, being managed by the Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, is still under development, but the Army plans to bring nearly 1,200 officers, warrant officer and soldiers into the branch during the first phase, which will run through 2016. In phase two, the branch will add a 29-series career field for electronic warfare.

Also under development are the standards required for entry into the branch. But Jennifer Buckner, commandant of the Army Cyber School, said applicants will need top-secret clearance and National Security Agency access, and must pass a counter-intelligence polygraph. It also would help to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a science- or math-related field.

"Beyond that, we're still developing standards," Buckner said. "So my advice is, if you can meet the basic requirements, feel you have something to offer to our Cyber branch and are motivated to join what will truly be an elite corps of professionals in our Army, then go ahead and apply."

Many of jobs will be located at Fort Meade, home to the U.S. Cyber Command, or Fort Gordon, home to the Army Cyber Command, but the Cyber branch also will have positions located throughout the force.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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