Navy gets new cyber categories

Sailors at Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command in 2010.

Sailors at Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command in 2010. U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Wahl

The move will make it so cryptologists and IT professionals no longer have additional duties in cyberspace operations.

The Navy has created new cyber job classifications for sailors in hopes of honing training and expertise within the cyber operations forces. 

The maritime service has been using other information warfare officers, such as cryptologists and IT professionals that handle network and cybersecurity, for cyberspace operations. Now, maritime cyber warfare officers will fill out the cyber operations forces, with about 300 officers focusing on offensive and defensive cyberspace operations. 

“Our cryptologists historically have been focused on signals intelligence, electronic warfare, maneuver and the electromagnetic spectrum, information operations. And when we first expanded into the cyber role, we aligned a lot of cyber responsibility with them because of their electronic and signal savvy,” Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, the Navy’s information warfare chief and commander of Naval Information Forces, told reporters.

The new designation will take on the offensive and defensive operating components other specialities were juggling. That will give the Navy “someone who can… focus full-time on how we maneuver on the net,” Aeschbach said. “That will alleviate, I think, demand we were putting on other designators that already have really tremendous responsibilities, and will still provide cyber-related support.”

Change is also coming for the more than 2,200 enlisted personnel who focus on cyber. The Navy will replace its cryptologic technician-networks, or CTN, rating with that of cyber warfare technician. But though the name is changing, job duties will stay the same. 

CTNs were “already doing all things cyber,” Aeschbach said. “And our intent there is actually not to change what they're doing, but just to continue to improve the level of the training that they're getting, so that they're even better than they were before.”

The changes are part of a congressional mandate in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Navy leaders had previously told lawmakers the service has struggled with attracting, training, and keeping cyber talent. 

Aeschbach said the new ratings will generate more discussion through the ranks while ensuring sailors’ titles match their job duties. 

The new CWT designators for enlisted sailors come with new badges designed by CTN2 Kennedy Bullard, of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command in Suffolk, Va. On the officer side, interested people will be able to apply for the MCWO designator in 2024. 

“I think it's going to be just a lot of discussion in terms of mentoring, how we advise folks, whether they're good candidates, and how we get this initial group of officers established by the end of the year so we can start focusing on their identity, their esprit de corps, and the kind of training they need to excel over time,” Aeschbach said.