New Army Cyber Commander Confronts Personnel, Resource Issues

October 29, 2013
By Max Cacas

A former infantry commander applies lessons learned on the battlefield to the world of digital combat.

The new head of the U.S. Army Cyber Command cites the importance of looking carefully at what cyberwarriors do to determine how best to manage the men and women tasked with protecting the service’s information technology networks. This focus on personnel addresses challenges ranging from retaining talent to ensuring that cyber operations have the best resources—human and technological—for their mission.

Speaking in a media briefing in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, USA, addressed the issue raised by Gen. Keith Alexander USA, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, that the disciplines of the signal community, signals intelligence and the cyber community be combined into a “cyberteam community.”

“When you hear this, it’s usually in the context of how you manage a cyberforce, that’s the construct,” Gen. Cardon began. “There are several different ways you can do this in the Army. You can use a skills identifier, you can create a functional area or you can create a separate branch. We have not resolved how we’re going to do this yet.”

With just six weeks on the job under his belt, Gen. Cardon decried “micro-management” efforts by the Army to manage cybersecurity personnel and resources. “I do know that we need to have a way to manage the talent, because it takes a long time to train them. We can’t take the time to train them and then have them for a year and then put them in a regular unit,” he declared. “That would be fiscally irresponsible.” The general went on to say that he is working with Army staff to determine how best to manage the staff under his command.

Another part of that effort to reform the management of the Army’s cyberpersonnel involves efforts by the Army’s Signal school at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to update the training and personnel categories, which define troops and officers who specifically work on cybersecurity. Addressing that effort, Gen. Cardon said he sees cybersecurity as a “team sport, but it’s also defined by competencies.” To make the point about training and retaining talented cybersecurity personnel, the general addressed as an example the need for experts knowledgeable in Apple’s new iOS 7, which runs the latest incarnation of iPads and iPhones.

“iOS 7 experts are hard to find, and you have to be able to hang on to them,” he said. “And then you have the larger question of how many such experts do you need?” When it comes to cybersecurity, Gen. Cardon continued, “I don’t get so wrapped up in, ‘Are you signal, are you intelligence?’“ He compared his new job running Army cyber with his previous role commanding the Army’s Second Infantry Division in Korea.

“I’m more interested in what’s your skillset, and can you do the job?” he emphasized. “There are many instances in the war zones where we took units with different mission sets, and we adapted them to mission sets that we needed at the time.” The general believes that it is just as important to him that the Army have a “growth path” to create opportunities for career enhancement for cyberwarriors, which also is being addressed in efforts to redefine training and personnel within the Signal Corps. While Gen. Cardon declined to comment on plans to do so specifically, those efforts could fold into proposals made by Secretary of the Army John McHugh to establish an Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon.

In the realm of acquisition, Gen. Cardon said he wants to be able to acquire cyber-related technology “faster, better and quicker.” However, he offered no specific recommendations on acquisition reform. Recently, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, chief information officer, U.S. Marine Corps, also expressed frustration at the lag in the pace of acquiring new cyber technology on a recent edition of the AFCEA Answers radio program.

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