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Air Force Reserve looks at cyber retention ahead of election season

The Air Force Reserve is looking to increase its cadre of cyber experts heading into the 2020 presidential election.

Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, head of the Air Force Reserve and Air Force Reserve Command, said he expects to increase cyber capacity in the next five years but needs to make sure personnel have the right mix of skills first.

"In the last election, the reserves were very active. One of the things we've observed in the Reserve Command in cyber is that we keep people for a long time -- so there's longevity," Scobee told reporters during a media briefing at the Air Force Association's Air Space Cyber conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 17.

Only 6% of cyber operators in the Air Force Reserve leave and that surprised Scobee.

Across the Air Force, he said, "the loss rate we have is 10%, but in cyber it's about 6%, so we keep people at a pretty good rate."

Air Combat Command announced in April that it would consolidate the 24th (cyber) and 25th (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare) Air Forces to create a the first information warfare Air Force. Cyber operators in the Air Force Reserve will fall under the new organization, Scobee said.

The high retention rate allowed the Air Force to build the 24th "a whole lot faster than we originally expected to be able to just because people are interested in that mission," he said.

That's partly attributed to the fact that cyber experts in commercial sector can do things with the Reserve they can't with their day jobs, like hacking back or at least peering into another entity's systems.

"Folks that are out doing cyber in industry, they come to the Reserve because it gives them an opportunity to do something they can't do in corporate America -- and that's a lot of the cyber offensive piece where they go look at other people's systems and they look at what they're trying to do to us," Scobee said.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.

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