• Pentagon: Don’t Exclude Top Cyber Talent From Military For Drug Use

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering recruitment changes to help attract and retain cyber personnel as the Pentagon prepares to boost its recruitment efforts.

    According to leaders, it’s difficult to bring in top cyber talent into the service because minor drug offenses, age restrictions and physical fitness issues continue to disqualify recruits. Some have suggested these standards need to be lowered. Carter has stated that he’s considering making some very targeted modifications, The Associated Press reports.

    Additionally, Carter is looking to sweeten the recruitment and retention efforts by introducing incentives which would pay off student loan debt. He is also considering changing promotion and evaluation systems.

    Recruitment and retention has been on the military’s mind in the past decade, but officials have cited lowered standards and a jump in waivers from 2006 to 2007 as the reason for a spate of bad behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan: sexual assaults, suicides and other crimes.

    The military is currently trying to expand its force of cyber warriors to 6,200 personnel. U.S. Cyber Command came into existence only five years ago. One of the goals in place is to have 133 active-duty teams ready for 2016. Given that cyber professionals can easily obtain six-figure salaries in the private sector, Army Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, head of Army Cyber Command, told Congress in early March that the greatest challenge will clearly be retention. There have also been proposals to introduce a 401k-like retirement option, as 80 percent of enlistees do not remain in long enough to collect retirement benefits.

    For now, Army Cyber Command is on an exponential growth path.

    Earlier in March, the Office of Personnel Management gave the Pentagon permission to fast-track 3,000 civilians into cyber teams, the day after Cardon testified that keeping civilian cyber talent “is challenging given internal federal employment constraints regarding compensation and a comparatively slow hiring process.” Now, the Pentagon can simply offer jobs based on what skills potential candidates have, including detecting vulnerabilities and analyzing malware. These temporary powers last until Dec. 31, 2015.

    But the problems won’t end then. Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, head of the Navy Fleet Cyber Command, stated that as the economy improves, it will become increasingly difficult to retain cyber talent in the public sector, as Silicon Valley still has a strong pull on the civilian sector. This is why Carter is looking into more permanent reforms.

    Still, considerable skepticism exists about revisiting waivers for bad behavior. At the Future of War conference in February, put on by the New America Foundation, professor of engineering and ethics at Arizona State University Brad Allenby argued that, “Somebody who is high on Coke, skittles and slinging code is not a good candidate for basic training,”

    “They grew up on Google and wear ponytails,” commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Lt. Gen. Robert Brown added as a counterpoint. “We need to look at ways to bring them into the Army without necessarily going through the same training procedures as our combat troops.”

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