Military Embedded Systems

Navy to outsource cybersecurity leadership


July 01, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

There is an immediate need for cybersecurity specialists to join the ranks in the Navy. To meet that demand and prepare sailors in the cyber domain, the Navy will move forward with its plans to hire civilians for positions as high as chief petty officer or captain. Moving forward, however, means understanding the Navy lacks leadership where it's required and evolving cybersecurity threats have already proved to be too much for our current resources.

It’s not the first time the military has looked outside to fill a need by someone with experience in a certain field. Lawyers and doctors are routinely brought in to fill the void that the Navy needs. There seems to be a silent acceptance that officers are ok to join the ranks. However, it extremely rare for the Navy to bring someone in and automatically patch the label of chief on them.

One statement that I wholeheartedly agree with is said in a NavyTimes article, “There's only one entity that selects, tests, and accepts Chief Petty Officers. That's the United States Navy Chief Petty Officers Mess. Anything else is an E-7.”

Chiefs are different. They are – to some – the embodiment of the Navy. They hold the traditions and spirit of the Navy, an entity that is governed by its own rules and regulations. Leadership is a fundamental core value within this culture. It is not something that those salty sailors take lightly. When you bring someone in that has years of experience in a field, but has never gone through the rite of passage in achieving their “sea legs” and expect them to fit in right away, it’s not going to happen.

With all the changes the Navy has been making over the past year, this is just another one that will be added to the pile. This brings me to ask, what’s more important: keeping every single tradition that has been in place for decades or adapting to combat the threats that evolve over time?

It’s hard place to be in. Traditions are important. The Navy is in a transition point that no matter what the leadership does, it will be judged one way or the other. Cyber warfare seems to have taken the military by surprise. The military hasn’t exactly put into black and white – or more precisely because it hasn’t been written in blood – what exactly constitutes a deliberate act of war within this domain.

Two numbers that are worrisome comes from this graphic provided by the U.S. Navy in 2015. Over the past three years, intrusions to critical infrastructures have increased by 17 times. Another is the Department of Defense (DoD) experiences 41 million scans, probes, and attacks per month. Numbers will change through actions and good leadership will fill the void regardless if it comes through the private sector or not.


Figure 1: A U.S. Navy photo illustration by Austin Rooney released in October 2015 depicting cyber threats.

(Click graphic to zoom)