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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Capt. Maureen Fox

Q&A with Capt. Maureen Fox
Commanding Officer, Center for Information Dominance
By Center for Information Dominance Public Affairs - October-December 2015
In September 2014, Capt. Maureen Fox became the commanding officer of the Center for Information Dominance (CID), headquartered in Pensacola, Florida.

Charged with developing the future technical cadre of the Navy's Information Dominance Corps (IDC), CID is the Navy’s learning center under Naval Education and Training Command that leads, manages, and delivers Navy and joint force training to 22,000 students annually in information operations, information technology, cryptology, and intelligence. With 1,200 military, civilian and contracted staff members, CID oversees more than 200 courses at four commands, two detachments, and 12 learning sites.

Fox responded to questions in writing in November.

Q: You’ve been the commanding officer of CID for just over a year now — what is your overall impression of the job?

A: I love my job. Can I say that again? I LOVE my job. I came into an organization that had both a deep history and a relatively new mission — so the best of both worlds for me. CID evolved to what it is today starting back in the 1960s when the first class of communications technicians, later called cryptologists, began to train at Corry Station. Every single cryptologist in the Navy came through Corry Station. They are a vibrant group of alumni; it amazes me to consider the impact on history they made during their active-duty years.

Then about 10 years ago, the Center for Cryptology Corry Station began a series of mergers which culminated in the worldwide Information Dominance enterprise we have today. Now the Center for Information Dominance headquarters remains at Corry Station with training taking place at commands at Corry Station, Hampton Roads, Monterey, and San Diego; detachments at Fort Gordon and Goodfellow Air Force Base; and 12 learning sites throughout the United States and in Japan. The CID of today is a group of intelligence, information warfare, communications and information technology professionals all working toward building the next generation of experts. Doesn’t get any better than that.

The history is tremendous, but the ever-changing mission is also exciting. We are shaping the Sailors and Soldiers who will navigate a very dynamic domain — cyberspace — while also operating in the kinetic world. I frequently think that the instructors who were trying to train the first Navy pilots or submariners must have felt this way: that this is a whole new area of warfare, and we have to lean in and do it better than anyone else. We have to own it.

So, it’s an exciting job to work with such a well-trained, professional and diverse workforce. I also get to work closely with our customers in the fleet and other services, which is particularly important to me. Understanding what the fleet and “Big Navy” needs from my Sailors is imperative.

On any given day, we’re training about 3,900 students along the entire spectrum from apprentice-level basic knowledge and skills up to a mastery level capable of managing the IDC enterprise as a whole. I can’t just throw spaghetti at a wall and hope something sticks, guessing at what my customers need — I need to know what the requirements are, so I can tailor the product that walks out my schoolhouse doors. Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR) and the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (OPNAV N2/N6) are excellent at constantly coordinating resources with requirements, so I can deliver what the Navy needs.

Out of all this, however, the real highlight of the job for me is helping to mold and transform young Sailors into professionals ready to join the fleet. When they leave recruit training and report for “A” school, the transformation they go through is amazing. These Sailors are so smart, so committed.

I have to shake my head when I read curmudgeonly comments in the media about the failings of today’s generation, because that’s not what I see at all. I see dynamic and intelligent young men and women who are ready to work hard for their nation. It’s always about the people, and what our instructors do every day working with the young men and women who come through our doors — Sailors who are our future — is inspiring.

Q: The mission of the Center for Information Dominance is "to deliver full spectrum cyber, intelligence, and information warfare training for decision superiority.” Can you explain what this means?

A: Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But it really isn’t. It’s about capability — having the capability to deliver the best information to decision makers faster than your enemy can do it, and enabling faster action as a result. That means building the physical architecture required, the C2 methodology to support it, and developing a workforce adept at understanding operations in multiple domains’ battlespaces, to include kinetic and non-kinetic. Unlike traditional platforms — think along the lines of ships, airplanes, submarines — “Information Dominance” encompasses both kinetic and non-kinetic realms, and thus has a unique nature and distinct challenges.

In order to build that workforce, the Navy developed the Information Dominance Corps (IDC). That’s who we train. They are a community of skilled specialists charged with mastering the capabilities, tools and techniques required to effectively collect, process, analyze and apply information. A mouthful, that. But we’ve essentially combined traditional expertise to create something greater than the sum without detracting from their core proficiency — putting together all intelligence: imagery intelligence; signals intelligence; human intelligence — combining that with command and control; and data links; and cyber; and electronic warfare to enable very deft operations in any battlespace.

Clearly, the threat in the cyber domain is continuing to grow and mature. We spend a lot of effort designing and building cybersecurity experts, and it is my honor to lead the organization that teaches, not only what you think of as cybersecurity experts, but also just about all the skilled specialists within the Information Dominance effort.

Q: What sort of skills or background would a person need if they were thinking of becoming a cryptologic technician (CT), information systems technician (IT), intelligence specialist (IS) or electronics technician (ET)?

A: We, of course, need people with strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills for our technical jobs, but in my opinion, we also need more. Because what makes for a good linguist may differ from an information systems technician; therefore, we are looking for Sailors with a wide range of personal attributes and interests.

I have found that many of our best linguists are also excellent musicians, and some of the most dynamic cybersecurity specialists love Sudoku. Ultimately, I think that intellectual curiosity is important to success in our realm.

You have to come to our world with a natural desire to learn more, to ask “what next,” to explore possibilities. We need proactive, not reactive, people who are capable of approaching a problem both logically and creatively.

One of the biggest attributes of our best Sailors, however, is the ability to think critically. Too often in today’s society people are unable to think critically — to look at a problem objectively and work through it. There is a tendency to want to come to an opinion first and then look for evidence to support the opinion. That tendency is damaging to our workforce.

So STEM, intellectual curiosity and critical thinking are all important. Study and time management skills are very critical to mastering the material, since the pace of the curriculum, across the board, demands that students know how to budget their time and how to actually study. Motivation is also imperative. The curriculum is difficult. The student really has to want it in order to progress.

When Sailors come to us, they will definitely be challenged, and it’s those students who have that natural curiosity and who find what they do interesting, who will thrive the most in our demanding courses.

Q: Technology is changing so quickly, how does CID update its training to keep pace?

A: We are constantly evaluating our courses. It is a very fast-paced environment we all find ourselves engaged in, and the skills that our Sailors leave with are critical to the success of the Information Dominance Corps, the fleet and national security.

In the past year, we’ve piloted new and revised courses across much of the training that we manage, for both officers and enlisted, and the changes just keep coming.

While the new Information Dominance Basic Course provides IDC officers a fundamental framework, the revised Information Dominance Mid-Career Officer Course deepens understanding of the three IDC pillars — assured command and control, battlespace awareness, and integrated fires — and incorporates leadership and ethics education.

The Joint Cyber Analysis Course, for example, which is designed to take individuals who have minimal computer experience and make them proficient in cyber-analysis, implemented a capstone event, and this year brings a six-day extension to support wireless technology.

In information technology training, CID partners with the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), Orlando, Fla., on a number of initiatives, such as intelligent tutoring for our entry-level information systems technician course. We’re finding that today’s younger generation responds very well to this kind of learning. Our artificial intelligence “Digital Tutor” course was developed by studying how the best instructors teach, tutor and adapt to individual students. We just graduated our pilot course in September, and one benefit is that we are transforming our Sailors into IT professionals in a much shorter period of time than it has normally taken us with traditional teaching methods and on-the-job experience.

These are just a few examples of the kind of relevant and varied training that we deliver, and I am so very proud of our staff at CID headquarters and throughout the domain for being such a dynamic, relevant and cutting-edge training organization.

Q: This year marks the 40th anniversary of COE accreditation for CID. What does that mean for Sailors who graduate from your courses?

A: It’s a very big deal. For Sailors, it can mean transferrable college credits, and they can be assured that the training they receive with the Navy is on par with that of other accredited, highly regarded civilian institutions. Accreditation through the Council on Occupational Education is a very important part of who we are for that reason, and it symbolizes the quality of training that we are able to provide. The council’s quality assurance reviews and the self-studies we complete for our programs help validate that we are doing it right.

Q: Navy COOL and the Navy's Center for Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (CLREC) are also part of CID. Could you tell us what they do for the Navy?

A: These are just two phenomenal programs that we have the good fortune to have as part of our CID team.

The Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) is a program that helps Navy service members find information on certifications and licenses related to enlisted ratings, designators, collateral duties/out of rate assignments and officer designators. One of the more recent exciting things about Navy COOL is that they partnered with Marine Corps COOL in FY15 as the Marines started to build their program. Navy COOL also just launched a new website in October, so everyone should check it out at http://www.cool.navy.mil/usn.

CLREC trains Navy personnel in foreign languages and cultures. Clearly, as a globally deployed force, there is tremendous need for this training in the Navy, and CLREC prepares the entire Navy workforce — active, reserve, and civil service — for the diverse, global cultures they encounter while conducting worldwide military operations.

Their statistics are just mind boggling. In 2015, they supported more than 500 commands, training more than 187,000 sea service personnel; things ranging from the USS Ronald Reagan’s homeport change to Japan and the forward basing of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to Rota, Spain, to administering more than 10,000 examinations under the Defense Foreign Language Testing Program.

So, both programs are real gems for the Navy.

Q: What role do you think CID will play in the future for the Navy?

A: The Chief of Naval Operations recently told international naval leaders that along with the growing importance of the maritime domain and the world’s navies in today’s strategic environment, we are facing “a new system, a vast global information network that also binds us together as seamless as the oceans with a structure and flow all its own and moving at the speed of light, speeding up the rate at which our world changes…”

That’s where I see CID delivering critical capability for tomorrow’s Navy. Ultimately, my job is to ensure CID is building a Sailor with skills that the Navy needs both today and tomorrow. We operate today in such a dynamic, ever-changing environment that we need to stay in constant touch with the fleet and cyber operators to ensure we know requirements. We also need to aggressively explore better ways to train, so we’re always leveraging new technology. We’re making sure every effort, every dollar results in excellence in the graduates we deliver to the fleet.

I’m proud to say we have a great team rising to this challenge. Each and every one is invested in the quality of the Sailor who walks out our schoolhouse doors.

Capt. Fox was interviewed by Carla M. McCarthy, public affairs officer for the Center for Information Dominance.

For more information on the Center for Information Dominance, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ceninfodom/; http://www.facebook.com/CenterForInformationDominance/ and http://twitter.com/CenterInfoDom/.

For more news from Center for Information Dominance, visit www.navy.mil/local/cid/.

Capt. Maureen Fox, Center for Information Dominance commanding officer
Capt. Maureen Fox, Center for Information Dominance commanding officer

Capt. Maureen Fox, Center for Information Dominance commanding officer, speaks to chief selects at the Naval Air Station Corry Station chief's pinning ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
Capt. Maureen Fox, Center for Information Dominance commanding officer, speaks to chief selects at the Naval Air Station Corry Station chief's pinning ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy

Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy

Sailors attending Information Systems Technician A-school at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station march to class. They are preparing to engage in a broad range of responsibilities including network administration, database management, and troubleshooting computer hardware and software. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
Sailors attending Information Systems Technician A-school at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station march to class. They are preparing to engage in a broad range of responsibilities including network administration, database management, and troubleshooting computer hardware and software. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
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