We associate good IW officers (IWOs) as being well-rounded and diversified. I believe there is a place for some officers to diversify throughout their career, but I also believe there is a need to specialize in cyber operations. Although many junior surface warfare officers (SWOs) are looking to lateral-transfer into IW and other designators for several different reasons, I think we can learn a thing or two from SWOs – specifically how they prepare their officers for command.
Starting with their first sea tour, they learn about the ship and the sea environment they are operating in. As they move from division officer to department head to XO, their knowledge and confidence of ship’s damage control systems, combat systems, engineering and TTP increase. Whether it is dewatering due to emergency flooding, placing the ship in the best position tactically or safely maneuvering the ship during an underway replenishment, the ship’s CO is alone, unafraid and needs little or no assistance making decisions. He or she simply knows every aspect of the ship and knows how to fight it!
IWOs with the aptitude and passion for cyber operations should be given the same opportunities to know the cyber tradecraft so they can fight the network. Like the captain of a ship, IWOs need to understand the details of the network for damage control, to understand the environment so he or she can best maneuver within the network and to understand his or her capabilities as well as the adversary’s during attacks and counter attacks. This only comes with time, experience and continuous training and education. Cyber is in a constant state of change and when an IWO who has a passion leaves cyber for two or three years to check the SIGINT or EW box, cyber related TTPs will have dramatically changed. Although not impossible to get back up to speed, there will be valuable time and training needed to get this officer where he or she needs to be. Let them stay in cyber and give them opportunities to promote.
It takes about 18 years for prepare a SWO for at sea command and I think IWOs need the same amount of time. The clock is ticking and we don’t have much time!
Where am I wrong?