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Qualifying Cyber Command Staff Is Harder Than You Think

Jeff Wasserman/

The Coast Guard Cyber Command aims to qualify a couple of service members for what Pentagon officials have said will be a 2,000-member force within the next two years.  

It will take all the military services a lot of time and money to get their members qualified for the force. For the Coast Guard, the task is even harder because it has no dedicated cyber school and splits its activities between defense and homeland security.  

The two-person figure, provided by the Coast Guard's cyber chief, partly reflects the difficulty of instructing computer whizzes from various educational backgrounds to reach the same proficiency level. It takes resources.

"This is 26, 27 weeks long or longer – months’ worth --of training before they are qualified and ready to go," Rear Adm. Bob Day, commander of the Coast Guard CYBERCOM, told Nextgov. "We’re investing millions" of dollars, he added. 

CYBERCOM training requires personnel not only to complete differing service cyber courses, but also classes at CYBERCOM headquarters in Ft. Meade. Cyber warriors arrive at Ft. Meade speaking to each other in essentially different languages, using various terms for similar cyber concepts. "Even though you call this 'XYZ,' we call it 'ABC,' are they the same course?" is the question, Day said.

Defense Department officials have said they want a fully-staffed CYBERCOM by 2016, comprising about 100 cyber mission force teams. Cyber Command oversees all military cyberattack operations and defensive maneuvers.  

What "we’re looking for is opportunities for a -- or two -- Coast Guard personnel to participate on the cyber mission team," Day said.

His 22-person cyber workforce is smaller than most CYBERCOM service components, because the Coast Guard, a Homeland Security Department agency, splits its attention between domestic security and military operations. Day expects his cyber mission force members to align with Fleet Cyber Command and perhaps a partner combatant command, such as SOUTHCOM or NORTHCOM. 

His members first must obtain the cyber credentials troops obtain at service schools, then generally go to Ft. Meade. "And then once they have gone through those qualifications, they will actually get tested on it to see whether they are qualified to be on a cyber mission team," Day said. "You have to put so much energy in them to get them trained up to the standard. Otherwise they can’t be on the team." 

(Image via Jeff Wasserman/

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