Cyber Command Builds ‘Cyber Warrior’ Capabilities

FORT MEADE, Md., Sept. 27, 2011 — Rec­og­niz­ing there’s no cook­ie-cut­ter for­mu­la for a “cyber war­rior,” the out­go­ing chief of staff at U.S. Cyber Com­mand said the strong, diverse capa­bil­i­ties already in place will pro­vide the foun­da­tion for the military’s pro­fes­sion­al cyber corps.

After his piv­otal role in stand­ing up U.S. Cyber Com­mand and help­ing to mold its ini­tial cyber force, Air Force Maj. Gen. David N. Sen­ty not­ed the array of skill sets it brings to the mis­sion of defend­ing vital mil­i­tary net­works.

The cyber force includes experts not only in infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy, but also in sig­nals intel­li­gence, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. Com­bat-arms forces among their ranks bring an oper­a­tional mind­set and mil­i­tary judg­ment to the equa­tion, Sen­ty said.

Many of the mem­bers, like Sen­ty, a mobi­lized Air Force reservist, come from the reserves and Nation­al Guard and bring civil­ian-acquired exper­tise to the mis­sion, he not­ed. Togeth­er, he said, they pro­vide a capa­bil­i­ty crit­i­cal to defend­ing the Defense Depart­ment glob­al infra­struc­ture grid and the net­works mil­i­tary forces depend on to oper­ate.

“They are real­ly awe­some folks,” Sen­ty said. “We have a great num­ber of them at the com­mand who are moti­vat­ed, excit­ed by what they are doing, and encour­ag­ing and bring­ing oth­ers into the com­mand with a grow­ing recog­ni­tion of the impor­tance � the dai­ly impor­tance � of what we are doing.”

A month shy of Cyber Command’s first year at full oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty, Sen­ty said the force already has demon­strat­ed its abil­i­ty to change with the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment. “The way we have adjust­ed our tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures has been very agile,” he said. That agili­ty, the gen­er­al explained, is the strength of the cyber force as it deals with an evolv­ing threat that takes advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to oper­ate freely and anony­mous­ly in cyber­space.

Sen­ty echoed con­cern expressed by Army Gen. Kei­th Alexan­der, Cyber Com­mand com­man­der, that future cyber attacks will become destruc­tive, not just dis­rup­tive, not­ing that evi­dence exists show­ing that adver­saries are build­ing destruc­tive tools. “There is an aware­ness now … about destruc­tive tools that are out in the wild,” he said. “And those can do griev­ous dam­age to phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture.”

Fac­ing off against this threat is a force Sen­ty com­pared to a soc­cer team. Unlike a foot­ball team that has dis­tinct offen­sive and defen­sive play­ers, he said, the cyber force must adopt the rules of soc­cer, con­duct­ing “con­tin­u­ous play, with offen­sive and defen­sive [skills] at all times,” oper­at­ing and defend­ing in the same cyber­space. “That sort of mind­set was part of bring­ing the com­mand togeth­er,” he said.

With most of the com­mand now in place, Cyber­com lead­ers rec­og­nize the need to assign more mem­bers to sup­port the geo­graph­ic com­bat­ant com­mands. That will require a larg­er cyber foot­print around the globe, with posi­tions like­ly to be filled not just by Cyber­com head­quar­ters, but also from its ser­vice com­po­nents, Sen­ty said.

As it fine-tunes its cur­rent assign­ments, Cyber­com con­tin­ues to eval­u­ate what force will be need­ed down the road, Sen­ty said. “We are build­ing a com­mand cul­ture about the cyber war­rior of the future, the impor­tance of those skills and the aware­ness of the oper­a­tional impact of every­thing they do in cyber­space,” he added.

That, the gen­er­al said, involves work­ing with the ser­vice com­po­nents to devel­op a com­mon mind­set, com­mon train­ing stan­dards and career pro­gres­sion across the com­po­nents. Sen­ty said he envi­sions a “very delib­er­ate rota­tion sched­ule” of assign­ments in the future between Cyber Com­mand, its ser­vice com­po­nents and com­bat­ant com­mands to ensure a sol­id expe­ri­ence base in build­ing net­works, defend­ing net­works and oper­at­ing in cyber­space.

“It is real­ly a new hybrid of skills that comes togeth­er through a migra­tion of assign­ments,” he said.

Mean­while, Sen­ty said, he sees grow­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and oth­er agen­cies � an effort already under way — and with inter­na­tion­al part­ners. Ulti­mate­ly, he added, he expects poli­cies that will gen­er­ate “cyber joint warfight­ers” and even “cyber coali­tion war­riors,” all work­ing togeth­er so their net­works are mutu­al­ly secure across the globe.

Sen­ty, who retires Sept. 30, said the Cyber Com­mand team’s force has “the right moti­va­tion, skill sets and future thought about where cyber is going” to take the com­mand for­ward.

“You can see the excite­ment in their eyes,” he said. “They are real­ly inspi­ra­tional in the way they have pitched in to this mis­sion and leaned for­ward. I’m real­ly inspired by the future, think­ing ahead toward where they will be in the future with this incred­i­ble capa­bil­i­ty that is so fun­da­men­tal for the mil­i­tary today.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)