As the Defense Department fills out its ranks with troops that will operate in the digital domain, the military services are working ardently to train up and supply the U.S. Cyber Command with cyber operators. One key avenue for reaching a goal of 6,200 troops by the end of the next year is the Army Reserve's program that is fostering cyber expertise that translates between the private sector and national security.
In a recent interview with Senior Staff Writer Amber Corrin, Erin Thede with the Private Public Partnership Office for the U.S. Army Reserve outlined the Army Reserves' efforts in building up the cyber forces that will defend the nation in cyberspace.
Tell us a little about what you're doing in building up Army cyber forces.
We work with the private sector to come up with innovative ways to assist our soldiers, whether it be through training, deployment or leadership opportunities. Cyber being such a very large point of interest across both the public and private sectors, we felt this would be a good opportunity for us to work with our partnerships that we currently have.
So, what we did was we started working with six core universities, which are the University of Washington Tacoma, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, University of Texas at San Antonio, George Mason University, Norwich University and Drexel University.
We also identified two employers in each market of the universities who wanted to come on board and assist us with employment in the cybersecurity world. We're also looking at innovative ways to assist when potentially there may be help needed for tuition assistance.
A lot of the organizations said it would be very beneficial to them. They would pay the tuition up front, and as long as the soldier successfully completed [the program] they would end up having an obligation to that organization to work for them for a certain amount of time. So that's a really good opportunity for us as well. We are looking at this holistically.
How are you bridging the gap between military and industry with the Reserves, especially when that gap evolves so quickly with technology?
Cybersecurity is not a DoD problem alone. It is not a private-sector problem alone. It is something that we need to work together on in both aspects to be successful in protecting our nation against cyberattacks.
We are so uniquely set up to have some big advancement and to have a big impact on this type of effort, the cybersecurity effort being that entity that straddles both roles, working in the private sector as well as in the public sector in DoD.
Reservists will be trained in [cyber operations] on the weekends during their battle assembly and whenever they are called up. But they are going to be working in that field day to day. And I know there are also some sessions to have our active component counterparts do some of the same things. This technology develops and changes so quickly; you have to be immersed in it. So, in order to stay up with potential threats, you have to be up on the latest technology.
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commander of Army Cyber Command, has come online saying the Reserve components are huge. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has said utilizing our Reserve component soldiers is going to be such a great asset just because they do work in the private sector 28 days out of the month. So they are working with those great organizations to provide that technology as it evolves.
How do you ensure everyone's getting trained to the right standard?
We're working with the National Security Agency, which actually sets standards for cyber training. We also work with U.S. Cyber Command, Army Cyber Command and Cyber Center of Excellence over at West Point, as well as the Army Cyber Center of Excellence down in Fort Gordon, Georgia.
We brought them all together and said, OK, what training does it take to be a cybersecurity soldier? What does it take for certification credentials? What do they need to be considered successful and successfully trained to an Army standard?
So, we are working through the aspects of getting the universities ready to say, "OK, NSA, look at me, see if this meets the intent." And then we will continue to work with the Army, — whether it be [Training and Doctrine Command], Army Cyber Command or Cyber Center of Excellence, — to say, "OK, now if a soldier gets this degree from this university, it would equal this in their [military occupational specialty] and/or certification type training."
Cybersecurity is that animal that just continues to grow and change. In order for us to stay relevant and be viable in our mission to protect against cyberattacks, we are going to have to change that curriculum as the technology and the threats change as well.
Improve training without extra funding: In order for this to really be a benefit to the Army and the Army Reserve, it needs to fit a need for the Army and Army Reserve. So what we've had to do is, in the current fiscally constrained environment, think of better ways to get the type of training for our soldiers, especially in the Reserve component.
Provide an elite cyber force for both government and industry: In cyber security, you need to be immersed in that. It is kind of like the medical field. You have to do it every day to stay up on the technology and be aware of what is going on in that area. So having those employers ready to pick these soldiers up is a benefit.
Bridge the public-private cybersecurity gap. I think it will be an advantage to the Army. The private sector, a lot of times, is very forward in technology and has a lot. And they develop the technology that we in the Army eventually use. That will put our soldiers in the Reserve component who currently work for those organizations at an advantage because he or she is working on it in that new technology as it is being developed. And that is something that they can bring to the Army when they come in for their weekend battle assemblies or their two week annual screening or should they be called up during a cybersecurity threat.