Army Aims to Boost Cyber Force Amid Looming Threat

Army Aims to Boost Cyber Force Amid Looming Threat

Hacker illustration
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With the threat of a cyberattack on the U.S. a virtual certainty, the Army is working to grow its cyber warrior force to help close the vulnerability gap, the service’s top civilian leader said.

In testimony before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the Army has captured important lessons from the conflict in Ukraine, including that “the information domain is incredibly important, and the force that can dominate in the information space I think will have the advantage in future conflict.” 

“While we haven’t seen, certainly here in the United States, major cyberattacks on infrastructure, I think that is something that we can expect in the future,” Wormuth said at the May 17 hearing, where she and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testified on the service’s fiscal year 2023 budget request.

“We’re looking a lot at how can we shore up vulnerabilities, whether it’s with our suppliers or in our own networks, to make sure that we’re not vulnerable to attacks,” Wormuth said.

Wormuth asserted that the Army has been in the vanguard of building cyber capabilities and expressed the service’s commitment to expanding its cyber force despite stiff competition from the private sector.

She noted that she would “like to explore this year” the authorities granted by Congress to hire people through the excepted service provision, a policy that allows government entities to hire people with unique skills without going through the lengthy competitive hiring process.

While the Army Cyber School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, trains soldiers to be cyber warriors, she said, soldiers who have cyber and coding experience are being found across the Army and trained by Army Futures Command’s Software Factory in Austin, Texas, a program to train soldiers to code and solve problems in the field.

“That would give us the capability to have Army soldiers at the tactical edge who can code and develop applications for us,” she said.

McConville related the story of a combat medic who was found to have exceptional coding skills and was brought in to work at the Software Factory.

“He codes at the Ph.D. level, and we want to be able to credential that capability, no formal training, because of his skill set,” he said, adding that more work needs to be done to keep people like the medic in the Army. “How do we credential that person and then incentivize him to stay? We’re working on those types of programs.”

The Army’s cyber branch, McConville said, “is one of the most competitive branches” among cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and in ROTC programs, and direct commissions are “being given” to qualified cyber professionals.