Re-thinking cyber training for officers

A proposed curriculum for training next-gen leaders of our cyber forces.

How we train the next generation of officers who will lead our cyber forces is an emerging issue for the U.S. military. I previously covered some technical cyber training programs back in February 2011, but I did not address cyber training at the officer’s level.

Some experts think we have contracted a severe case of tunnel vision when it comes to cyber training, concentrating only on the technical aspects of the cyber domain.  I agree to an extent, but even though parts of the U.S. military do offer cyber training for officers, I find the curriculum lacking. 

That’s why we must update the cyber skills of officers, many who rose through the ranks on the fringes of the computer and networking revolutions. Based on many years of research and reflection on cyber issues, here is my recommended curriculum for training the next generation of officers who will lead our cyber forces:

1. Cyber conflict background: This introductory course would cover the current state of cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

2. Understanding cyberattacks: An examination of cyber weapons, cyber intelligence and the cyberattack process.

3. Cyber activism, cyber terrorism and virtual states: A survey examining current attributes and capabilities.

4. Leading and managing highly technical individuals: This one speaks for itself.

5. Measuring and reporting on cyberattack defense: The focus here is on status and progress evaluation.

6. International issues and laws related to cyber conflict: The international rules of the road, including how DOD interacts with the United Nations, NATO and State Department.

7. Global technology reliance – Economy and infrastructure: Taking into account finance, trade and global communications.

8. Emerging technologies and the cyber implications: What disruptive new technologies will emerge over the next three to five years and what do they mean for cyber defense.

9. Hybrid military operations: Coordinating cyber and physical mission planning and operations.

10. Leading and managing cross-functional teams: Leveraging a team approach to cyber operations. 

The transition from traditional military thinking to a multidimensional approach that takes into account cyber operations is well underway. Given that reality, it is important remember that the cyber domain is continuously changing with new threats, attack vectors and defense technologies emerging regularly. Coping with that threat will require continuing education at both the officer’s level as well as our cyber soldiers’.