ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 15, 2015) -- What is an Army civilian cyber professional? This is the question Army organizations here are working to define through certificate training, advanced education and rotational assignments in cyber.
The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Communications-Electronics Command are working on a number of initiatives to better train Army engineers in the cyber fields.
"Today's networked warfighter faces the threat of cyber-attacks that are always changing. A large thrust at APG [Aberdeen Proving Ground] is to protect the network and keep our Soldiers and their information safe," said Henry Muller, CERDEC director. "These cyber education initiatives will help us build advanced cyber professionals for the Army who can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the fast-paced landscape of cyber warfare."
APG is home to multiple organizations engaged in cyber, and there became a need to find consistency in what a cyber professional does and is trained in, said Gary Martin, CECOM executive deputy to the commanding general.
"Cyber is an interesting thing. It's one of the biggest areas that we as a community are engaged in," Martin said. "The fact of the matter is that cyber is such a growing demand on our workforce in terms of what we actually do that our positions are really morphing."
Universities vary in the cyber-related courses they include in bachelor's programs and so far there has not been a cyber "job series" accredited by the Office of Personnel Management, he said.
Army work in the realm of tactical cyber requires cyber professionals whose understanding extends beyond that of the commercial cyber world, said Giorgio Bertoli, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate senior engineer.
"The Army's tactical network, and the communication, information technology systems, and software that comprise it, have significant operational constraints when compared to commodity business networks, such as high bit error rates and latency, low bandwidth, intermittent connectivity and high likelihood of loss or capture," Bertoli said. "The term 'Tactical Cyber' is a way of differentiating capabilities that are specifically designed or tailored to effectively operate within this tactical network environment."
CERDEC is spearheading three education efforts addressing the workforce gap in cyber that are the direct result of an extensive needs assessment CERDEC's Human Capital Cell, or HCC, initiated with APG organizations, said Victor Carrozzo, CERDEC HCC. All programs are open to those in cyber fields at APG, including contractors and military personnel.
The first program is a Cyber Development Certificate Cohort through the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The program includes nine months of classes in programming, review of basic computer science and preparation for the Certified Security Software Licensed Professional Test.
"There are some topics in this course that I haven't dealt with in my undergrad so this class gives me the opportunity to learn that and apply it to my job," said Dearris Kelley, CERDEC computer scientist.
A two-year Master of Science, or MS, in cybersecurity through Johns Hopkins University was set to start this summer on-site, but due to stringent requirements and evaluation of the program, qualified employees will now obtain the degree through Johns Hopkins online, said Carrozzo.
CERDEC HCC is also examining the option of offering a master's level certificate in cybersecurity. This third educational program will hopefully fill the niche between the MS cyber program and the hands-on certificate program, said Carrozzo.
"Like the other two educational programs, the goal is to bring the APG cyber community together, along with the benefits of advanced learning," said Victor Carrozzo.
In addition to these and other cyber-related certificates like the Certified Information Systems Professional and Risk Management Framework, CECOM is in the process of developing a new "cyber cohort" that would involve a higher education component, certification programs and job rotation assignments for a group of cyber professionals from across the installation.
The idea is for the group to take all the training together and rotate through positions at different APG organizations to understand cyber from the entire lifecycle perspective. Members of the cohort would continuously rotate through positions so no organization would suffer a loss of manpower, said Martin.
"By doing it that way, I think we're going to build cyber folks who have a much broader perspective of the cyber mission. Not only from R&D [research and development] and what are the future things that we can work on, but what are the realities of what we're actually dealing with in the field today, both offensive and defensive," said Martin.
Martin said there has been significant interest across the installation and they are working to launch the program by the end of the year.
"The beauty of this is they're all interacting together through this process and everybody's getting trained in a similar way. So when we talk about a cyber professional, we will all have the same sense for what that means in terms of skills and breadth of capabilities and what they can do," said Martin.
The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM and CECOM are major subordinate commands of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.