In today’s digital world, the Navy faces new and dynamic challenges. It needs to prepare itself by developing leaders who understand and embrace the technology and can lead sailors to accomplish the cyber
mission. But like its warfare counterparts, the information warfare community (IWC) cannot create leaders overnight. The Navy is scrambling to rapidly develop a cadre of leaders with technical knowledge who can connect the dots of information warfare to effectively execute defensive, offensive, and intelligence operations that are integrated seamlessly with all other warfare disciplines.
Sourcing leaders from the Navy Reserve and civilian cadres may be the ideal solution to this complex problem. Expanding Navy Reserve support for IWC brings both civilian expertise and a military background to the table. Just as the IWC is a hybrid of the restricted and unrestricted line communities, the reserve force is an optimal hybrid of civilian expertise and military service. The reserve force was established in 1915 and codified in law in 10 U.S.C. 101012, which states that reserves are to “provide trained units and qualified persons available for active duty in the armed forces, in time of war or national emergency, and . . . to fill the needs of the armed forces whenever more units and persons are needed than are in the regular components.” The use of reservists for cyber security falls clearly within this definition.
The challenges of the cyber domain present a steady requirement to augment, complement, and enhance the capabilities of the regular force. Many reservists have pursued careers in the cyber and information technology sector after leaving active duty. In their civilian capacity, they are gaining valuable cutting-edge technical knowledge while capitalizing on the leadership skills they learned in the Navy. Vice Admiral William Moran, then-Chief of Naval Personnel, explained in a Federal News Radio interview that the private sector lacks the resources to develop managers and team players who match the caliber of Navy officers and often prefers to hire leaders trained by the military. Both ready and inactive reservists could serve as a source to fill the Navy’s immediate need for technically expert cyber leaders.
There also are information industry leaders who are Navy veterans who did not have the opportunity to serve in the cyber community because it did not exist when they were in uniform. With a refresher on Navy policies and operations, former officers could be activated just as they were in World War I. Some Ready Reservists, on the other hand, are working in the private sector cyber domain but are serving the Navy in other communities. To harness their talent, the Navy may need to allow more lateral transfers within the reserve community; expand the number of personnel it brings into the Ready Reserve and on to active-duty status; and develop additional reserve units in the information technology centers around the country. This has the potential to integrate cutting-edge technology and innovation from the private sector and bring in effective leaders capable of gaining the respect of their active-duty peers. Using reservists to enhance IWC leadership would set the stage for greater “permeability” between the military and civilian sector, a goal of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s “Force of the Future” initiative.
“Force of Future” also encourages using civilian experts to build critical capabilities in specialized skills. As a complement to using reservists, the Navy could leverage existing authorities to hire civilian experts to strengthen IWC leadership. The Department of Defense currently employs significantly less than the maximum number of experts allowed. Secretary Carter left the decision of where to increase talent up to the component commanders. The Navy could choose to increase cyber warfare expertise by 10 percent annually.
Ensuring access to the best-of-breed talent across the IWC and cyber missions poses a daunting but achievable challenge. First and foremost, the Navy needs a pipeline of operationally and business-savvy leaders at all levels who also have commensurate technical experience. Through an agile and expanded reserve and civilian program, the Navy’s information warfare community will be ready and able to defend, fight, and win across the cyber domain in peace and in war.
Lieutenant Commander Sherwood is an active-duty intelligence officer with extensive experience in the Central and Pacific commands. She currently serves as a defense fellow for Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).