This is the second of a three part guest post series. In this post, we take a look at the results of a recent survey conducted of O1-O4 Cryptologic Warfare Officers. Using Qualtrics software, I created a survey targeting U.S. Navy Cryptologic Warfare Officers in the grade of O1 (Ensign) to O4 (Lieutenant Commander). This rank target was intentional. Once promoted to O5 (Commander), Cryptologic Warfare Officers are immediately screened for an O5 Operational Milestone assignment and subsequently screened the following year for O5 Command opportunity. Per the 2016 Navy Personnel Command (NPC) approved community briefs, 80% of newly promoted O5 Cryptologic Officers are screened for this milestone opportunity, with 16% screened for O5 Command the following year (1). Due to the short window between the time of promotion to O5 and these screening boards, the foundation of expertise, qualifications, and performance on which these boards’ decisions are made occurs over the approximately 15 years spent at the O1-O4 level. As such, it is critical these Officers have a clear understanding of Cryptologic Warfare Community expectations during this period.
My principal aim with this survey was to gain insight into the adherence to and interpretation of the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles document by the targeted survey audience. I focused on the Foundational Principles document itself, as well as the portion that discussed the idea of specialized expertise across the communities’ core skills. I introduced the term “generalist” as a counter-term to “specialist.” As previously discussed, specialists are focused on a specific domain, narrower in scope, with deep technical skills and a particular area. Generalists are focused across multiple domains, with a broader scope and working level knowledge and competency in multiple areas (2).
I distributed the survey to the Cryptologic Warfare Officer community through email distribution to the Executive Officers at eight Navy Information Operation Commands (NIOCs) and to the senior Cryptologic Warfare Officers stationed with Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), Navy Fleet Forces Command (FFC), Commander, Third Fleet (C3F), and Commander, Fifth Fleet (C5F) to facilitate distribution to Officers attached with the NSW community and on Surface platforms around the world. This method ensured distribution to those Officers who met the community and rank requirement, as opposed to posting the link in social media forums, which might have gained a wider distribution, but risked losing control of the distribution. The survey was password protected and included a control question about the participant’s Officer Community and rank that would end the survey if the user did not meet the requirements for participation. In addition, survey participation was limited to one completion opportunity per IP address, to reduce fraud potential. The survey was active for one month beginning 19 January 2016 and there were 277 respondents.
Two key questions from the survey were focused on determining if Cryptologic Warfare Officers had read the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles and if they had clear guidance from Cryptologic Warfare Community leadership regarding a desire for Cryptologic Warfare Officers being specialists or generalists.
Almost half of the Cryptologic Warfare Officers surveyed indicated they had not read the document which was produced to provide strategic guidance on the core competencies required for the Cryptologic Warfare Community. More curious was that an even greater number that felt they were not given clear guidance from community leadership regarding expectations as a specialist or generalist, with almost 75% indicating they did not feel they had received clear guidance. These two questions indicate that there is a communication problem between the Cryptologic Warfare Community leadership and the Officers who participated in this survey regarding expectations of performance in the core competencies.
These results mentioned above indicate that the surveyed Cryptologic Warfare Officers would then be confused as to the direction of the community and expectations for career progression. However, the survey indicated that over 60% felt that they actually did know the needed jobs required to be promoted to O5.
These results are surprising when compared to the question of how many had read the Foundational Principles and felt they had received clear guidance from senior Community leadership. If they aren’t reading the Foundational Principles, where are these Junior Officers garnering the information that made them feel comfortable that they knew what jobs would allow them to promote to O5 and compete for a Command position?
When I asked survey participants what they thought the Cryptologic Community desired, a specialist or generalist, they overwhelmingly (over 80%) thought the Community desired a generalist. However, when then asked about what they personally thought the ideal model should look like in the future, less than 10% thought it should be one that was generalist dominated.
This disparity is remarkable. These responses indicate that there is a great divide between what these Officers felt the community currently values in a Cryptologic Officer as compared to what they felt the community should value in the future. This is also in conflict with what the community articulated that they do value, as outlined in the Foundational Principles.
The response to the initial question about whether these officers felt that community leadership desired them to be generalists or specialists was surprisingly weighted to perception that they desired generalists, despite language in the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles to the contrary. In the second question, the idea of a generalizing-specialist or versatilist was presented for the first time, to gauge interest and support for that concept.
Lastly, there was a strong reported bias that Officers felt the Community valued the Cyber core competency over those of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electronic Warfare (EW).
This perception is understandable, due to the emphasis that the Navy has placed on Cyberspace Operations (CSO) over the last five years. However, with the CNO’s recent focus on the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS), the emergence of the Electromagnetic Spectrum Maneuver Warfare (EMMW) operational concept, and the convergence of Cyberspace and the EMS, the EW core competency is a critical area of emphasis. The EMS is the backbone of Cyberspace and EW and CSO will be fully intertwined moving forward. In addition, the continued importance of the foundational core competency of SIGINT as an enabler of both EMMW and Cyberspace operations,as well as kinetic targeting, cannot be overstated.
In the next, and last, post, we will look at a recommended personnel model for the Cryptologic Warfare Community to implement.
LCDR Brian Schulz is a Cryptologic Warfare Officer, currently serving as the Navy’s Federal Executive Fellow at Duke University. He will be taking over as the Cryptologic Warfare Junior Officer Detailer in July.
1 Navy Personnel Command, Department of the Navy. “FY-17 Active Duty Line Community Brief.”2016. Pg 31.
2 HR in Asia Team. “Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists and Versatilists.” HR in Asia. April 24, 2014. http://www.hrinasia.com/recruitment/talent-archetypes- specialists-generalists- and-versatilists/ (accessed March 29, 2016).
9 June 2016 at 17:52
Brian – I am one of those who had neither read/been exposed to the Foundational Principles before reading this post. In review, it is easy to see how “specialist” as portrayed in the FP can be interpreted as a “generalist” by JOs. Specialist as a CWO amongst the broader Navy, is a generalist within the community. I consider the background required to develop an expertise in EMW, CNO, or traditional SIGINT to be mutually exclusive. This depends on your definition of expertise, but I do not think an “expert” can be developed over a 2-3 year tour.