Education will be the cornerstone for our nation’s success in cyberspace. The military has made efforts towards building the force necessary to defend its borders within cyberspace. The United States (US), however, will need to invest in its youth to better prepare for the future. This article focuses on current efforts to prepare for cyber warfare through the education system, community programs, and military training. With a better understanding of the current efforts, organizations can strengthen programs or focus on areas necessary to further US capabilities in cyberspace.
Over the course of the last century, warfare has made giant leaps in terms of battle ground in which war is fought. No longer are wars fought solely on ground, air, or sea, but in space, and now cyberspace. Due to this change in terrain, Soldiers must be smarter than they have ever been, and eager to not only train physically, but mentally. The need to educate Soldiers has become crucial to future military success, and that need reaches beyond the services to grade school, in order to develop the fighting force the US requires. The question becomes, what is the US doing to better prepare young people to inherit the cyberspace battlefield? To answer this question, the military is making changes to its current structure as well as looking to other agencies and organizations to fill military requirements.
“We know that the nation that out-educates today will out-compete us tomorrow. And I don’t intend to have us out-educated.”
– Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the US government identified a need for cybersecurity. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) laid ground work to develop more cybersecurity professionals. Many educational institutions are now following the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework, which aligns education with the security standards set by the government and industry. NICE provides teachers the tools necessary to prepare grade level student for the future cybersecurity work force. The intent of NICE, and similar programs, is to encourage young people into cybersecurity industries.
Additional tools are being used to increase interest in IT fields. Schools have incorporated online educational game play, such as the online gaming website Cool Math, into homework for students to not only learn basic math skills, but to expose younger generations to the Internet. Programming languages such as the MIT developed language, Scratch, is used in classrooms to introduce programming to grade school students. Educators are trying to incorporate technology into the classroom and doing so with the use of micro-computers, such as the Raspberry Pi, and sandbox games like Minecraft; in both instances, students learn basics of programming while engaged is game play. Robotics clubs and after school hacking programs have begun to spring up in recent years to better prepare students for future technical careers.
Cyber safety is also becoming a necessity to educate young people about the dangers of the Internet and how to protect themselves as more things are incorporated into their networked lives. Programs such as Digital Citizenship, which teach “the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use,” have become common place among educational institutions teaching the dangers of cyberspace.
In an effort to remain competitive with other countries in cyberwarfare, the US military has initiated programs to spark interest in teenagers. The Air Forces’ CyberPatriot program encourages teenagers to come together and compete in cyberspace. The competition “puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company.” The teams are tasked with identifying vulnerabilities in their network and maintaining critical services for periods up to a six hours.
The need for cyberspace is apparent throughout today’s modern battlefield. Cyberspace does not just encompass the security of information and networks, but it is used as a primary means of communication, and used to maintain command and control of units on the ground. However, most commanders do not understand how to effectively use cyberspace operations in their battlespace. In order to maintain overall cyber superiority, “Officers, regardless of their rank or position, must be able to assess their operational environment from a cyber perspective and be aware of the basic platforms and cyber capabilities.” The lack of prior systematic cybersecurity and defense education for senior level officials do not meet today’s need for cyberwarfare and will require an estimated five to six weeks of intensive study to meet needed standards; however, because of the ever increasing technological threats, there will be a constant need to further educate all officers, regardless of rank, on cyber dangers as skills and knowledge atrophy. Commanders must understand and assume risks in a domain where they cannot always see the maneuver while in the field when it involves cyber operations. Additionally, leaders will need a more understanding of their own network security, insuring that information is not compromised.
The military is currently pushing for officers and enlisted to understand their role in cyberspace operations, and their effect on the cyber battle space. Furthermore, civilians who possess sophisticated knowledge of computer security and computer code are being recruited into the military. The need for cyber professionals are in high demand, and the military is taking action to insure the best possible cyber warriors fill its need. The US military is doing whatever possible, such as recruiting from current personnel, hiring personnel who possess IT certification, and recruiting individuals who pass new requirement placed on basic entry exams, such as the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, to ensure the US maintains superiority in cyberspace.
On May 25th, 2016, the first lieutenants graduated from Cyber School, historically marking the Army’s move towards a cyber force. Prior to this date, the Army recruited from within its ranks to build its cyber force, committing large amounts of resources to stand up its cyber capabilities. The Army continues to build its ranks with the 170A for Warrant Officers, and new Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for enlisted ranks, both coming online at the end of 2016 and early 2017. The Army has shown it is fully committed towards establishing Cyberspace dominance with other branches following in the Army’s footsteps.
There are numerous organizations that have made the shift to incorporate cyber into learning outside the classroom. The Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the United States of America, for example, have always helped mold future Soldiers since their inceptions in the early 1900s. Currently, scouting parallels the military in many aspects, to include utilization of a rank structure, survival skills, drill and ceremony, and leadership skills and statistics have shown that a majority of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have a higher likelihood to enter into the service over those in other after school activities. With the military focusing on cyber, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have added many new merit badges (badges that signify skills learned and demonstrated) in the computer sciences fields. Scouts may now earn badges in programming, robotics, electronics, and digital technologies, and although the US military’s involvement in scouting programs are minimal, many Soldiers volunteer their time to mentor Scouts. The shift in Scouts and other organizations towards implementing cyber and IT into their curriculum demonstrates the direction that our society is making towards better preparing future generations to handle the upcoming battlefield.
In order to maintain superiority in all battlespaces of the US military, a shift in requirements has begun to occur in the armed forces. The US is pushing for future generations to for conflict in virtual space, not necessarily physical space. The US military has a need for highly educated Soldiers in its forces, and the best way to achieve this is to educate young people in cybersecurity. Educators and other organizations have already seen the need for better IT personnel, and have begun making changes to further educate young people on the dangers and needs of the cyber community. The continuance of the freedoms the American people enjoy will depend on furthering education in cyberspace so that future generations can maintain that freedom.
About the Author
SSG Bret Clements is a fourth generation Soldier serving in the United States Army. Enlisting as a heavy equipment mechanic, he served in Iraq during Operation New Dawn in 2011-12. SSG Clements has since reenlisted as a Crypotological Networking Warfare Specialist and now serves as a Cyber Operations NCO. Currently SSG Clements is working towards his Bachelors of Science Degree in Computer Networks and Cyber Security from the University of Maryland University College during his tour with 600 Cyber Protection Team.
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