Cyber Defense

Army Chief of Staff says cyber warriors need to adapt to new threat environment

The Army Chief of staff and its Commander of Cyber Forces believe that increased adaptability will help fortify cybersecurity tactics as more IT specialists and cyber warriors enter the force and address new threats.


However, the two also acknowledged the difficulties the Army continues to face in developing the structures within the service to recruit and recognize cyber and IT talent.


“We’re not going to get it right...what’s important is we get it less wrong than our enemies,” Gen. Mark Milley said when discussing how the Army would need to continue adapting to face technological change in cyber warfare in remarks given at the Army’s International Conference on Cyber Conflict.


Milley noted the progress that had been made in the past three years in creating the cyber branch in the Army, a comparably short period of time in relation to other technologies that changed the “fundamental character of war.” He thought this ability to adapt to a quickly changing environment would prove essential in challenging peers and non-state actors on the future battlefield.


Milley and Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone said the youngest members of the service were in the best position to ensure the Army could adapt to those changes. Nakasone said the Army had made strides in the past nine to twelve months in both offensive and defensive capabilities, testing adversaries such as ISIS, who had an early upper hand in the cyber domain competition.


However, Nakasone noted that more work was needed to ensure brigade combat teams learned the basics of cyber practices in addition to the small, specialized teams who would likely remain at the spear tip of offensive and defensive cyber warfare.


Both agreed building out those cyber warfare capabilities was a matter of human talent. Since the cyber branch was set up, Nakasone has seen a divergence between average soldiers and “super-empowered individuals” who were leading the way in developing tools and techniques within the branch, a split he hadn’t seen in other parts of the service. Figuring out the ways in which to empower these individuals was something that still needs to be worked out, he said.


Milley pointed to a pilot program the service began earlier this year which directly commissioned individuals with experience in cybersecurity as officers. This system is one already seen with individuals who have medical or legal experience. Even if the Army couldn’t expect these individuals to stay in service for more than the length of their first contract, he maintained it was something that should be pursued.


“We’re running faster than our headlights,” Nakasone said, ultimately confident of the path the service was advancing along.

About the Author

Adin Dobkin is a freelance contributor to Defense Systems.

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