hacker at work (Alexander Geiger/Shutterstock.com)

Marines look to special forces as they craft new cyber career path

Cyber as a warfighting domain requires more than modern technological capabilities. Department of Defense leaders say it needs its own career field in the services.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said the old manpower model of switching service members' occupation every few years doesn't work for cyber.

"We realized that the same manpower model that we used for other MOSs was not going to work because in order to be qualified to do this you have to go through a certain level of training," Neller said during an Atlantic Council event March 29. "It took time and it wasn't something that a very junior 18- or 19-year-old right out of high school was going to be able to do."

After about a year of deliberation, the Marine Corps announced March 1 the creation of new cyber military occupational codes (MOS), including enlisted positions, offensive and defensive officer roles with two more cyberspace officer positions.

Neller said the new career field was modelled after the services' special forces training model: "Once you're, in you're in. You're done."

So instead of being rotated to a new base or job after a few years, Marines who select cyber MOS stay in their role and do the work.

"That's the one thing we can give them. I can't pay them what they're worth," Neller said. "So once you get in and you make all the quals, you're in and you can go do your job."

Service members can leave or change positions, such as to become a recruiter, on their own volition. But even with that flexibility, he said, there needs to be a new pay or promotion mechanism to encourage retention.

"This is not [private first class] or lance corporal business," said Neller. He described the cyber work as "sergeant, staff sergeant, warrant officer, limited duty officer stuff."

Neller also emphasized the need to build up and keep cyber talent. "We need those folks," he said," We need to get a return on investment."

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