FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service, Sept. 5, 2014) -- The Army is activating a Cyber Protection Brigade today, and discussing a new cyber branch that could be established as early as next month.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney D. Harris, Army Cyber Command, said the branch announcement could come as early as the second week of October, during the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting.
The Cyber Protection Brigade is being activated by the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Gordon, Georgia. It's the first brigade of its kind in the Army and the nucleus of the new unit will be its cyber protection teams, according to the command.
Over the last two years, Army Cyber Command has been standing up teams at Fort Gordon and across the force with initial operating capability. However, the Army needs twice as many teams as it now has, Harris said.
The Army needs to double the amount of Soldiers in the cyber career field, over the next two years, according to Harris. He said a conference in August focused on planning a new career management field for cyber warriors, which will be referred to as CMF 17. This conference at Fort Meade included key stakeholders from Fort Gordon, the intelligence field and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Conference attendees discussed new military occupational specialties such as the proposed 17C cyber warfare specialist and the 17A cyber warfare officer. The 17 series will blend signal intelligence and military intelligence skills, Harris said.
"These Soldiers are so unique, and they're so skilled and they're so few," Harris said. "The chief of staff of the Army has asked us to focus hard on what we're doing for talent management" to recruit and retain cyber Soldiers.
That's why the Army needs a 17 series that will be just cyber, Harris emphasized.
It takes three years of training to grow a network operations NCO, he explained. Two six-month courses are required, along with a two-year apprentice program, in order to be certified as a journeyman.
"There's very few other jobs in the Army -- in the non-commissioned officer corps, that require three years of training," Harris said. "They are highly sought-after technicians."
After serving a short tour, the network operations NCOs might go back to signal or military intelligence jobs, or on to higher-paid civilian positions. Harris said that wouldn't happen as often with establishment of a Cyber CMF.
A package of re-enlistment incentives is also being staffed for cyber Soldiers, Harris said.
The number and sophistication of attacks on the nation's cyber networks is increasing, officials said, adding that's why it's important to have more effective and coordinated efforts for conducting cyberspace operations.
The Cyber Protection Brigade and cyber teams will help provide a more agile and responsive cyberspace force, officials said.
The cyber teams will be roughly platoon-sized, but vary depending on their mission. The combat-mission or offense teams are larger, Harris said. The network defense or cyber-protection teams are mid-size.
"There are also support elements that are somewhat smaller and national teams that will support other government agencies," said Harris.
The teams include Soldiers, NCOs, officers, warrant officers and Army civilian employees.
"We're not unlike any other maneuver elements," Harris said, explaining that the difference is his teams maneuver across the cyberspace domain instead of ground, air or sea.
Weapon systems are all computers, Harris said. Any system connected to a network can be targeted by cyber teams, he said, and need protected by cyber teams.
"Many of our weapons systems today are enabled. If it's a computer system that's run by software - it can be targeted."