This is the third of a three part guest post series. In this post, we take a look at a proposed personnel model for O1-O4 Cryptologic Warfare Officers.

      We previously discussed the conflict between a specialist and generalist, ending with the idea of a “Generalizing Specialist” or “T” shaped employee who is able to maintain a depth of expertise in a specific field while developing breadth of general knowledge to collaborate across other disciplines. ( 1) We also discussed the call from the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles for Cryptologic Warfare Officers to develop “deep, specialized expertise across our core skills.” (2) I offer that a U.S. Navy Cryptologic Warfare Officer should not merely follow the T shape model we previously discussed, but rather evolve further into what I call a Pi ( ) shaped Officer. A graphical representation is included below.

Figure 1: T and Pi Shaped Employee/Officer

This Pi-shaped Officer model builds on the concept of the T shaped employee, but with two vertical legs of specialization, one in a core competency and the other in leadership, while maintaining the horizontal line of breadth of expertise across the other core competencies as well as the various Navy platforms and domains. It would be easy to suggest that all Officers should be leaders, so this second leg is irrelevant.

However, from my experience, unless an expectation or requirement is clearly articulated, it will not be fully met. The final result is a team of these Pi shaped officers, which will allow, as Buxton stated earlier, “their cross bars (horizontal) overlap due to their common language and breadth, while their combined pillars (vertical) span numerous areas of expertise, covering the domain of any problem you are addressing.” (3) Using this construct, Junior Officers will grow into senior Pi-shaped Officers, ready to face all the problems in the converged warfighting domains of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) and Cyberspace.

The Cryptologic Warfare Officer community is unique, and fortunate, that it is able to hand-select the Officers that are gained or hired annually. Applicants are screened and Officer Candidates are selected based on a proven specialty from academic and/or previous job experience in a technical Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) field. As such, they join the community from day one, already with a short vertical leg of specialization. While this specialization is normally not in a specific field of CSO, EW, or SIGINT, it is a STEM specialization that is foundational to one of those core competencies.

Figure 2: Cryptologic Warfare Officer at Accession (ENS/O1)

Once the new Cryptologic Warfare Officer is hired, they enter into initial training, consisting of a Cryptologic Warfare Officer Basic Course and a broader Information Warfare Community introduction course. These training courses develop breadth across the Core Competencies and lead into the Cryptologic Warfare Officer’s first assignment. In addition, new Cryptologic Warfare Officers receive leadership training during these basic courses to prepare them for their pending role as a Division Officer upon their first assignment. The resultant shape of a Cryptologic Warfare Officer as they enter into their first operational assignment has two vertical lines and a horizontal line in various stages of growth, but is far from the Pi shaped Officer they will grow into.


Figure 3: Cryptologic Warfare Officer upon Initial Training Completion (ENS/O1 ~6 months)

At their first assignment, a Cryptologic Warfare Officer will continue to develop into a Pi shaped Officer. They will develop depth in one of the core competencies through the operational requirements of their first job. These jobs vary depending on assignment location, but all are rooted in one of the core competencies of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Cyberspace Operations (CSO), or Electronic Warfare (EW). They will be afforded the opportunity to grow their horizontal breadth across all core competencies through the Cryptologic Warfare Officer basic qualification and Information Warfare Officer Qualification program. These are both rigorous qualification programs designed to test and evaluate the learned skills of a new Cryptologic Warfare Officer. Lastly, they will develop their leadership vertical leg as they assume the responsibility of leading as a Division Officer. This vertical leg will grow through the interaction with Sailors and Chiefs, the leadership and mentorship of their Department Head, and the collaboration with other Division Officers. At the end of this first assignment, a successful Cryptologic Warfare Officer should begin to resemble the Pi shaped Officer that will continue to grow and strengthen throughout the rest of their career.

Figure 4: Cryptologic Warfare Officer upon Completion of First Assignment (LTJG/O2 ~3yrs)

Upon completion of initial assignment, the Cryptologic Warfare Officer will be assigned to a tactical assignment onboard a ship, submarine, aircraft squadron, Navy Special Warfare (NSW) unit or Cyber Team. This will allow for growth, both in a core competency, as well as in increased breadth of knowledge of all core competencies and upon different Navy platforms. The typical Officer will have completed 5-6 years of service and have earned the rank of LT/O3 after this second tour. The Officer will then be sent to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) to obtain a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, or Cyber Systems and Operations. The articulated community aim is for 100% of Cryptologic Warfare Officers to complete this Master Degree program to deepen his/her core competency knowledge and understanding from an academic sense. Upon completion of the Master’s program, they will complete a utilization tour, using the academic knowledge learned and deepening their core competency knowledge. Cryptologic Warfare Officers should finish this assignment at the 10-11 year mark, as a newly selected LCDR/O4, if performance in all the aforementioned jobs to this point met the Navy standard of “superior performance.”

Figure 5: Cryptologic Warfare Officer upon Selection to LCDR/O4
(~10-11 years)

As an O4, the Cryptologic Warfare Officer will have the opportunity to complete an operational milestone assignment, once again growing in breadth and depth in various SIGINT, Cyber, and EW capacities with strike groups, submarine squadrons, NSW commands, fleet and joint staffs, and cyber units. They will also have the opportunity to serve as Department Heads and Executive Officers, further refining their leadership vertical leg while also continuing education through the Information Warfare Community mid-career course, expanding their horizontal breadth line. At the end of their time as an O4/LCDR, a Cryptologic Warfare Officer will have obtained a fully developed Pi-shape, having substantial depth in at least one core competency and as a leader, as well as great breadth of knowledge across all core competencies, the IWC writ large, and the U.S. Navy.

Figure 6: Cryptologic Warfare Officer as a Senior LCDR/O4 (~15-16 years)

VR/ Brian

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 Mann, Andi. “Specialists vs. Generalists.” August 25, 2014. devops/#!prettyPhoto (accessed March 29, 2016).

2 Rogers, Michael and other Navy Information Warfare Officer Community Leaders. “Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles.” 2011. Pg 3.

3 Buxton, Bill. “Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People.” Business Week- Bloomberg Business. July 13, 2009.