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Defense Official Says Diverse Talent Pool Is Critical

The Defense Department's chief information officer underscored today the importance of building a diverse, capable workforce to meet the strategic challenges on the horizon.

John Sherman told attendees of this year's TechNet Cyber conference that he remains focused on shaping a DOD-wide strategy to tap into the talent pool of the future and to adapt to "the changing dynamics of our 21st century environment."

"The why is to have a workforce that looks like America with all the innovation, the surliness we bring to the fight from all corners of this great country," he said. "And we've got to get after this because I tell you when we do this right, nothing they're going to do in Beijing or Moscow or Tehran [in Iran] or Pyongyang, [North Korea,] can stand up to what we're going to bring this this fight."


Sherman said that while advancing technology is critical to competition with U.S. adversaries going forward, "human beings have got to be the core of this."

A key element of designing a workforce for the future, Sherman said, is going to be tapping into a talent pool of those with technical experience and expertise without having necessarily obtained a four-year degree.

"Degrees are great, but experience is even better," he said. "That's where we want to open the aperture to as well: looking at folks who may have gone to community college, who may have had a great run as an NCO [noncommissioned officer] and have better experience than anyone coming out of a four-year program."

A service member poses next to information technology hardware.
Cyber Defense
Air Force Airman Ian Ford, a cyber defense and network operations technician with the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing designs, installs and supports information systems to ensure they operate properly and remain secure from outside intrusion.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker, Ohio Air National Guard
VIRIN: 230304-Z-ZJ624-0001
A service member handles computer network wiring.
Network Tech
Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Joshua Collera, a network infrastructure technician with the 6th Communication Squadron, bundles a fiber jumper at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 7, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Derrick Bole
VIRIN: 230307-F-XY101-856

Sherman made his remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's two-day conference in Baltimore.

The annual TechNet Cyber conference brings together private sector and government partners to address the global security challenges shaping the digital environment.

In addition to discussing the future of DOD's technology workforce, Sherman also laid out critical areas of focus for the department moving forward including the implementation of targeted zero-trust capabilities across the DOD enterprise by 2027.

A man in a suit speaks on a stage.
John Sherman
Department of Defense Chief Information Officer John Sherman spoke at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s DoDIIS Worldwide Conference, Dec. 13, 2022.
Photo By: David Richards, DOD
VIRIN: 221213-D-SG895-0036C

"I can think of no better way to create dilemmas for the People's Republic of China and Russia and others than by implementing zero trust – preventing lateral movement across our networks and systems," he said.

"We cannot fail on this," he said. "This is going to be, and remains, one of my top priorities as chief information officer."

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