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Creating a Total Army Cyber Force: How to Integrate the Reserve Component into the Cyber Fight

May 23, 2016

The creation of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM)—a four-star command—and the subsequent creation of service-level three-star commands1 that conduct the full spectrum of operations in cyberspace2 have placed a new level of emphasis on those qualified to work in the evolving cyber career field. While getting a qualified work force in place has always been a challenge for the information technology (IT) community, it has been exacerbated by the emerging need to recruit, develop and retain a qualified force capable of meeting the skill requirements levied by USCYBERCOM and the Department of Defense (DoD). USCYBERCOM has stated that it wants to develop an estimated 5,000 military and civilian personnel to make up a larger Cyber Mission Force (CMF)3 to serve in three capacities: protect critical national information systems, support combatant commanders abroad and defend the DoD networks. However, the task of developing the force in sufficient numbers resides primarily within the active component (AC) of each of the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines).

The Army, which states that it “wants to be the service of choice for U.S. Cyber Command” has developed a “pretty good plan” for recruiting and developing cyber talent out to 2017, according to Lieutenant General Edward C. Cardon, current commander of U.S. Army Cyber/Second Army.4 The plan calls for the development of 41 teams5 that conduct operations in support of Army and joint commanders. However, the sheer volume of requirements levied on the Army to support the defense of the nation, combatant commanders and Army missions outweighs the number of highly qualified personnel and teams available today and into the foreseeable future. To recruit, develop and retain the right number of personnel with the appropriate skill sets, the Army must balance priorities with changing budgetary constraints, a narrow training pipeline and the constant struggle between working in the public and private sectors.

A potential solution for the Army is to develop a sustainable, agile and diverse force that expands the operational force by integrating the reserve component (RC) into the CMF to mitigate the stress on the active force and alleviate emerging force requirements in the future. Utilization of capabilities already resident in the RC effectively employs Army resources, uses the RC in roles for which they are well suited and mitigates the current shortfall of qualified cyber personnel. Further, using RC personnel taps into a force pool with skills that are hard to grow in the AC. It further relieves a portion of the current Army requirements by leveraging 2 a mixture of talented people already in uniform with a combination of military and civilian training and experience. It further diminishes emerging stressors with an accessible, trained and ready surge capacity capable of steady-state operations, consequence management, crisis response and homeland defense.