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Coast Guard embraces direct commissioning for cyber personnel

The Coast Guard is now using a direct commissioning program to bring cyber specialists into its cyber command as officers.

The maritime military branch opened up its direct commissioning program to cyber roles in cyberspace operations, cybersecurity, information assurance, and cyber threat intelligence.

"We're bringing them in under our direct commission engineer program, our IT paths and even into FY '22, we're creating direct commission for cyber opportunities," Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, commander of Coast Guard Cyber Command, said at a briefing following the Joint Service Academy Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 23.

The cyber direct commission program, which was stood up Sept. 24, will start in "small numbers to begin with," Ryan said, and will focus on plucking talent from within the service.

"We're grabbing our best and brightest and enlisted members and giving them the opportunity to join the officer ranks," Ryan said.

Applicants to the direct commissioning program "must be proven cyber professionals with robust work experience," according to the program description. The program is open to applicants age 21 to 41 who hold a current security clearance and can, among other things, complete "a structured physical fitness program" and satisfy educational and job experience requirements if they're coming from the outside. The education and job experience requirements differ slightly for candidates coming from the ranks of enlisted personal inside the Coast Guard.

The IT track is housed under the direct commissioning engineer program and focuses more on infrastructure development, said Lt. Adam Hoburg, a military aide for the Coast Guard Cyber Command's commander, via email.

The Coast Guard has long grappled with aging IT infrastructure and the proliferation of cybersecurity threats. The service, which recently refreshed it's cyber strategy, has been looking to expand its cyber forces, asking for $12 million to fund a third cyber protection team in its fiscal 2022 budget request "to work with cyber specialists at critical ports of entry."

Other military services, including the Army, have used direct commissioning to bolster their technical workforce. For Ryan, the direct commissioning program means developing new avenues to bring people in.

"People can identify with the Coast Guard mission set, they want to be part of our crews," Ryan said. "We're going to try to find ways to allow them to contribute."

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site.

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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