Cyber Command Builds ‘Cyber Warrior’ Capabilities
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., Sept. 27, 2011 Recognizing there’s no cookie-cutter formula for a “cyber warrior,” the outgoing chief of staff at U.S. Cyber Command said the strong, diverse capabilities already in place will provide the foundation for the military’s professional cyber corps.
After his pivotal role in standing up U.S. Cyber Command and helping to mold its initial cyber force, Air Force Maj. Gen. David N. Senty noted the array of skill sets it brings to the mission of defending vital military networks.
The cyber force includes experts not only in information technology, but also in signals intelligence, communications and military operations. Combat-arms forces among their ranks bring an operational mindset and military judgment to the equation, Senty said.
Many of the members, like Senty, a mobilized Air Force reservist, come from the reserves and National Guard and bring civilian-acquired expertise to the mission, he noted. Together, he said, they provide a capability critical to defending the Defense Department global infrastructure grid and the networks military forces depend on to operate.
“They are really awesome folks,” Senty said. “We have a great number of them at the command who are motivated, excited by what they are doing, and encouraging and bringing others into the command with a growing recognition of the importance – the daily importance – of what we are doing.”
A month shy of Cyber Command’s first year at full operational capability, Senty said the force already has demonstrated its ability to change with the operational environment. “The way we have adjusted our tactics, techniques and procedures has been very agile,” he said. That agility, the general explained, is the strength of the cyber force as it deals with an evolving threat that takes advantage of the opportunity to operate freely and anonymously in cyberspace.
Senty echoed concern expressed by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, Cyber Command commander, that future cyber attacks will become destructive, not just disruptive, noting that evidence exists showing that adversaries are building destructive tools. “There is an awareness now … about destructive tools that are out in the wild,” he said. “And those can do grievous damage to physical infrastructure.”
Facing off against this threat is a force Senty compared to a soccer team. Unlike a football team that has distinct offensive and defensive players, he said, the cyber force must adopt the rules of soccer, conducting “continuous play, with offensive and defensive [skills] at all times,” operating and defending in the same cyberspace. “That sort of mindset was part of bringing the command together,” he said.
With most of the command now in place, Cybercom leaders recognize the need to assign more members to support the geographic combatant commands. That will require a larger cyber footprint around the globe, with positions likely to be filled not just by Cybercom headquarters, but also from its service components, Senty said.
As it fine-tunes its current assignments, Cybercom continues to evaluate what force will be needed down the road, Senty said. “We are building a command culture about the cyber warrior of the future, the importance of those skills and the awareness of the operational impact of everything they do in cyberspace,” he added.
That, the general said, involves working with the service components to develop a common mindset, common training standards and career progression across the components. Senty said he envisions a “very deliberate rotation schedule” of assignments in the future between Cyber Command, its service components and combatant commands to ensure a solid experience base in building networks, defending networks and operating in cyberspace.
“It is really a new hybrid of skills that comes together through a migration of assignments,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senty said, he sees growing collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies – an effort already under way -- and with international partners. Ultimately, he added, he expects policies that will generate “cyber joint warfighters” and even “cyber coalition warriors,” all working together so their networks are mutually secure across the globe.
Senty, who retires Sept. 30, said the Cyber Command team’s force has “the right motivation, skill sets and future thought about where cyber is going” to take the command forward.
“You can see the excitement in their eyes,” he said. “They are really inspirational in the way they have pitched in to this mission and leaned forward. I’m really inspired by the future, thinking ahead toward where they will be in the future with this incredible capability that is so fundamental for the military today.”