Strategic Horizons: Making Cyberwarriors a Special Challenge for U.S. Military

Strategic Horizons: Making Cyberwarriors a Special Challenge for U.S. Military

In the shrinking U.S. defense establishment there is one growth area: cyberwarfare. The military's Cyber Command plans to quadruple in size by 2015, adding 4,000 additional personnel, while all of the other combatant commands are likely to become smaller. The Navy is doubling its own cyber force, and the other services are likely to keep pace. This much growth will not be easy—finding, keeping and focusing cyberwarriors will remain challenging for the U.S. military.

States have always needed soldiers and sailors. And while every society has a few people inherently attracted to danger and discomfort, there are never enough of them, particularly for a large, modern military. Hence states must make warriors. For much of history, men were coerced into the military during peacetime by force or desperation, and swept into service by patriotism and peer pressure during war. Since the advent of the all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the U.S. has recruited using patriotism, the desire for adventure and the promise of upward mobility. It retains troops already serving by instilling a sense of belonging and duty and offering material inducements. And it focuses and disciplines its troops by inculcating the warrior ethos, training, education and, most importantly, support from close-knit teams.

But what works for making conventional warriors will not produce cyberwarriors, with their very different mentality, skill set and tolerance for authority. Today the U.S. uses a hybrid approach to this problem. The first part is finding people already in the military with a penchant for cyberwar. While it can be hard to keep them once they develop marketable skills, service members come with a tolerance for discipline and authority. The second part of the hybrid approach is to hire contractors with the skill set for cyberwar but who may not have the same tolerance for discipline and authority. The hope is that blending the two types of people will provide the right mix.

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