BALTIMORE, Oct. 25, 2016 — In keynote remarks and a question-and-answer session at CyberMaryland 2016 last week, the triple-hatted leader of U.S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency and the Central Security Service championed talent and motivation as network defense game-changers.
With the demand for cyber security talent projected to rise globally to six million by 2019, Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers acknowledged that while technology is “incredibly important” to the Defense Department’s ability to meet the needs associated with the challenges of cyber and cyber security, perhaps the greatest challenge is human.
“How do you make users smarter so that they can make intelligent, well-informed decisions?” Rogers asked. “If your users are making choices that undermine that security you’ve made your job that much tougher.”
The admiral said the greatest defensive strategy is attracting a motivated and focused workforce with specialized training. The human dimension is a challenge that persists for the nation, he added.
Tapping into Talent
NSA and U.S. Cyber Command have augmented their return-on-investment and recruitment efforts, including outreach to the private sector, academic world and internships, he said, noting that about 65 percent of NSA interns eventually join the agency once they complete their education.
Rogers said the investment extends well beyond NSA, such as through cyber curriculum, now mandatory in a growing number education and workforce development programs including the U.S. Naval Academy, which now directly commissions officers with cyber ranks.
“Cyber is foundational to the future and everyone must have some baseline well of knowledge,” Rogers said. “We’re way past the time where it can be, ‘I don’t have to worry about that, that’s what my [information technology] guys do.’”
DoD and government must constantly seek the best technology and innovations, the admiral emphasized, which often live “outside of the beltway and the Department of Defense.”
But, in both national defense and network defense, Rogers said DoD needs to be prepared to respond in an aggressive timely manner, even in the wake of less successful methods. “We must constantly drive for success but at the same time we must acknowledge, despite our best our interest, there will be times we will fail.”
Rogers recounted that at the start of his personal journey in cyber the entire focus was to simply keep the opponent out of the network. “After 15 years doing this in the department, I’ve come to the conclusion that you must not only spend time focused on that, but you must acknowledge that despite your best efforts, you’ll eventually be penetrated.”
Motivation at Heart of Network Defense
Recognizing this inevitability, he said, calls for a different thought process, methodology, and leadership style, and as important as the technology is in forestalling opponents, motivated men and women remain at the heart of network defense.
The admiral said the current and future force must embrace a long-term cultural change in terms of leveraging the focus, effort and investment into ongoing network defense. This, he said, applies not only within government, but in articulating support and partnership with the private sector and even U.S. allies, as cyber challenges transcend geographic boundaries.
“It’s challenging to come up with solutions that don’t only work for one particular country,” Rogers said. “We’ve got to do something broader, more global.”
With high-stake cyber missions here to stay, about one million cyber jobs opening, and some 200,000 additional cyber jobs yet to be filled in the United States, science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives, cyber curriculum development, and alternative education methods to groom the nation’s sought-after cyber leaders must remain a priority, Rogers said.
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