Army leaders launch program to recruit more cyber warriors

Army leaders launch program to recruit more cyber warriors
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The U.S. Army is officially launching a new program aimed at recruiting more cyber operators to fill existing gaps in the force.

The service is implementing a new pilot program to directly commission civilians with technology and cybersecurity backgrounds as cyber operations officers who will provide support for the branch’s Cyber Mission Force teams. 

The effort signals the urgency within the Army to recruit more technology-savvy operators as cyber operations gain significance in the U.S. military.

“We’ve been building the force for the last four years,” Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, told reporters at a briefing on the program Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got a pretty good feel for the … gaps that we have.” 

The program will allow programmers, web developers and others in technology fields to apply to be directly commissioned as an officer in U.S. Army Cyber Command. In order to apply, individuals must have at least four-year degrees in computer science or related tech fields, in addition to filling a set of other requirements. 

Army direct commissions are aimed at recruiting civilians with high-demand skills into the service. Direct commissions were previously limited to those in the legal, medical and chaplain corps. Being directly commissioned as an officer comes with immediate perks, including the ability to give orders and eligibility for increased pay and benefits. 

Nakasone said Tuesday that the service is hoping to recruit its first class of cyber operators by February. Those admitted into the program will need to complete a six-week direct commissioning course at Fort Sill, Okla., followed by a 12-week cyber officer course at Fort Gordon, Ga. 

The pilot program will run for five years, and leaders hope to recruit up to five new cyber officers each year. 

Army cyber officers are responsible for developing tools, writing programs and algorithms, and performing research to support the service’s Cyber Mission Force teams. 

The federal government has broadly struggled to recruit and retain officials serving in technology and cyber-related roles, given steep competition with the private sector. Federal tech officials hosted the first governmentwide event to recruit IT and cyber personnel last month.

Cyber operations have become a growing priority in the U.S. military as adversaries have increasingly turned to cyberspace to conduct operations. President Trump in August moved to boost U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s offensive cyber operations unit, spinning it out into a full combatant command.

The other military branches are also looking to actively recruit more cyber professionals to become part of the joint cyber force.

“This is just a new way of doing business,” Nakasone said Tuesday. “We’re looking for talent.”