Wanted cyber warriors NO, not really.
The nation faces a severe shortage of information security savvy talent. The pool of candidates dwindles even more when considering such constraints as the ability to receive a Top Secret clearance, possession of U.S. citizenship, desire to undergo repeated drug tests, and, in some circumstances, ability to pass a polygraph exam. The combination of a highly competitive job market and a relatively small pool of candidates require the military to actively create a culture that attracts, not repels, talent. So how do potential cyber warriors perceive the military? It isn’t a pretty picture.
Perceptions of the Military by Potential Cyber Warriors
In order to gauge the perception of the military by the technical community we posed the question “How has the military treated you and your technical friends?” on Slashdot.org. Slashdot is arguably the most popular technical news website and is an ideal location to gain a sense of the technical community’s perception of the military. The posting drew 415 responses, some quite detailed.1 The online discussion focused on a variety of themes:
Limited creativity – “The very things that make us valuable -- the ability to think critically, take the initiative, and not be weighed down by conventional thinking is exactly the thing the military seems to weed out.”
Inflexibility – “The military is not setup to advance and reward those with technical ability. It is setup to have standard sized cogs.”
Recognition – “The military doesn't recognize the existence (or need for) a different type of person to fight their new battles.”
Unfair pay – “I looked at the 3 stripes on the arm of the guy flipping my burger. I then looked at the 3 stripes on my own arm, realizing we both get paid the same. At that moment my mind was made up and I chose not to reenlist.”
Limited meritocracy – “There is no mechanism for payment or reward based on technical skill level.”
Lack of a technical career path – “I think one of the things that the Army did wrong was to completely eliminate that secondary path to advancement. If we're talking about highly technical specialties with little to no relationship to direct combat, then the idea to make everyone a capable sergeant doesn't fit so well.”
Bias against non-combat personnel - “In USAF's officer corps, if you don't turn and burn for a living, you're somewhat less than a man.”
Technically ignorant leadership – “[The Colonel’s] eyes glazed over after 3 or so minutes as he could not follow what I had done at all”
Low pay – “I can walk into any DoD security contractor out there with my DD214 and make 10 times what I did when I was discharged”
Danger – “I hope those guys tell their wives that they are lawful military targets”
Distrust – “We are talking about handing the keys to America's entire computer security infrastructure over to military intelligence agencies like the NSA”
Anti-intellectual bias – “I attended West Point and was in the top 10% of my class. One of my tactical officers once told me that I needed to get my priorities straight. No one wanted someone who was too smart, he said. He'd rather have someone in his unit who could ace the physical fitness test than someone who studied.”
Lack of career advancement – “Its great if you're just in for the college money, sucks later on if you decide to make a career out of it.”
Lack of tolerance of alternative lifestyles – “Many of us live alternative lifestyles and conventional military thinking is that we're a security risk.”
Compulsory management responsibilities – “The system itself isn't designed to handle individuals that have technical ability, but who aren't ready/don't want to command lower level troops.”
Misutilization – “The government sent me to six months training in 29 palms. Yet, when I finally got the chance to deploy, I was a glorified MP.”
Hazing (or worse) – “Nerds were treated with a bar of soap wrapped in a towel, routinely beat on, robbed from, cast out, and had their opinions dismissed.”
Without attracting the best possible cyber warriors, by definition, we will create a second-rate organization.
...it is important to note that Cyber Command does have a good thing going for it in its close partnership with the National Security Agency. The Secretary of Defense set it up this way, directing that the Commander of Cyber Command be dual-hatted as the Director of NSA, to allow Cyber Command to leverage the power of NSA’s Cryptologic platform – its cyber intelligence collection capabilities and its information assurance expertise. NSA hosts our nation’s greatest concentration of crypto-mathematicians and some of the world’s best minds in information technology; roam its basements and you may in fact find a pink-mohawked research engineer or an intricately-tattooed code breaker. This relationship, in which a good portion of CYBERCOM’s military forces are embedded in NSA’s offices, should help encourage and facilitate the culture of innovation so critical to the development of a successful military cyber force. ( I don't believe it G )
Each cyber warrior will be a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. Perhaps at some point the Nation will create a new branch of service for Cyber, but not for the foreseeable future.2. However, we are not without specialized, thriving cultures within the Military. Ask yourself, what would an organization that combined the best attributes of Google and the Special Forces, look like? By answering this question, we will be much closer to an agile and effective culture that will excel in the military, and in cyber war. We should study lifestyles, culture, organizations, and other practices of elite military organizations, because Cyber Command must become an elite organization. Do not misunderstand us, elite doesn’t mean exclusionist or an organization filled with prima donnas. To us elite means world class, quiet professionals. To be elite will help us create the right culture, protect our cyber warriors from misuse, and attract the best possible people.
Our experience with the Cyber Military and Intelligence agencys has been mixed, mostly we are treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark, covered with manure probed and prodded and one way lines of communication, mistrusted, even feared. Like a relative with measles.
Working with them isn't one of my fav things.
Poor communication skills, inability to move out of their
comfort zone, either mentally or operationally.
Tendency to substitute aggressiveness for intellect.
Inability to give or receive feedback.
What they seem to want is an in the Box,
run of the mill, factory produced, cyber grunt.
Not world class cutting edge cyber professionals they
can direct. They view non-traditional and black box
technologies as a threat, not as an asset to be deployed.
Their context, frames of reference remain outdated,
fixed and closed.
And we will crawl through mud for good contacts,
enlightened leadership and willingness to innovate.
Tactical Internet Systems analyst