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CHIPS Articles: Information Assurance: Taking Commercial Certifications to the Operating Forces

Information Assurance: Taking Commercial Certifications to the Operating Forces
By U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jeffrey Hammond and Mary Purdy - April-June 2009
Because of a 300 percent increase in cyber attacks on Department of Defense (DoD) information technology (IT) systems and infrastructure, there is a critical need for knowledgeable command, control, communications and computer (C4) personnel. To meet this requirement, during 2007 and 2008, Brig. Gen. George Allen, Headquarters Marine Corps, Director C4, identified C4 training as his No. 1 priority to aggressively tackle the cyber domain warfighting mission.

In rapid response, the Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) not only revamped its Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School (MCCES) classroom training, but also revolutionized the way the Marine Corps trains and now commercially certifies its C4 personnel through Communication Training Centers. The CTCs are collocated with all three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) and provide training for active duty and reserve Marines and civilians who are part of the C4 community, but moreover, for any Marine identified as part of the Information Assurance (IA) Workforce.

DoD Directive 8570.01 mandates that 70 percent of the IA Workforce must be commercially certified by the end of 2009. This creates a high demand for commercial certification training. Specific CTC-developed courses, which respond to the IA mandate, are the CompTIA A+, Network +, Security +, and International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2 Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) certification courses.

In addition to IA certifications, IA technical personnel must hold an operating system (OS) certification. CTC OS courses include the Microsoft IT Academy, Cisco Networking Academy commercial courses, and the Support Wide Area Network (SWAN) Data Incidental Operator Training, which meets the OS requirement with a CTC certificate of accomplishment.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jeff Hammond, the CTC director, invites commanders to reach out to the CTCs located in California, North Carolina and Okinawa for no-cost initial and remedial C4 training. The CTCs have established a relationship with each of the MEFs and through recently signed Memorandums of Agreement have established their role with and in support of their regional area.

The CTCs are equipped to provide both IA and OS commercial certification, but more importantly provide a full commercial certification testing capability for IA workforce personnel. Last year Hammond's staff offered training and certification to more than 840 Marines and civilians. This year he intends to make sure all classroom seats are filled in every hosted class, and therefore, offers standby seats to Navy IA workforce personnel.

The CTCs are designed to relieve the already burdened operating force staffs from the administrative burden of scheduling commercial training and managing seat quotas. Commanders simply request training from their local center and assign Marines to scheduled training. Each CTC, with its respective MEF, co-chairs a quarterly Communication Training Working Group (CTWG) that is designed to identify training requirements, prioritized by need and schedule, to support regional operations and exercise tempo.

At a time when most operating force training focused on equipment-based training in support of the global war on terrorism, the CTC incorporated both fundamental and advanced IA training to enable better security for DoD networks. The CTC staffs are a mix of military, civilian and contractor instructors who are fully trained and certified to teach Microsoft and Cisco Academy courses. This crucial step enabled Marine Corps commands to save several million in training and travel dollars and, instead, focus their efforts on preparation for future deployments.

The CTCs training regimen complements the IA training in MCCES formal classrooms. Both matriculating students, as well as operating force returnees, will have the most up-to-date instruction since using commercially developed training allows quick modifications to the curricula to keep abreast of rapidly changing technology.

For information on CTC class dates and to request training, go to the CTC homepage at: https://www.29palms.usmc.mil/ctc/. Select "Training Schedules" to see class dates or "Warfighter Training Request Portal" to schedule a class.

Goal 6 of the Department of the Navy Information Management and Information Technology Strategic Plan, Fiscal Year 2008-2009, states: "Develop an agile and integrated IM and IT total force capable of implementing, operating, and managing the power of the NET." Both the formal schoolhouse and the CTC curricula advance this goal and ensure that Marine Corps personnel are prepared to meet the cyber domain demands of current and emerging technologies.

At the DON IM/IT Conference, DON CIO Robert J. Carey recognized the CTC and MCCES staffs for their quick execution of training support to the cyber security mission requirement. Mr. Carey praised TECOM for successfully executing high tempo training requirements while managing limited resources.

Commercial certification training is integral to the DON IA Workforce Improvement Program implementation. Kudos to all involved in establishing this training program as a "best practice."

Maj. Hammond is the Director of the Marine Corps Communication Training Centers. Mary Purdy provides contract support to the DON CIO IT Workforce Team.

DON IM/IT Excellence Award presented by DON CIO Mr. Rob Carey and Deputy
Director C4/CIO U.S. Marine Corps Mr. Jim Craft to Capt. Russell Cromley,
MCCES; and Maj. Jeffrey Hammond, CTC.
DON IM/IT Excellence Award presented by DON CIO Mr. Rob Carey and Deputy Director C4/CIO U.S. Marine Corps Mr. Jim Craft to Capt. Russell Cromley, MCCES; and Maj. Jeffrey Hammond, CTC.
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