Recruiting the Best Cyber Operators

Personnel reform is essential for the Defense Department’s cyber community to recruit the people it wants, the Pentagon’s outgoing personnel chief said. While the Pentagon has authorities it can use to get people into cyber jobs, such as being able to repay student loans, that isn’t enough to get the top graduates from the best programs, which is exactly the kind of cyber operators the department needs, said Brad Carson, who recently stepped down as the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “For the people we really need … we don’t have the authority to get that person,” Carson said during a Monday event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. For example, the Pentagon simply cannot compete with top tech firms. The prospective salaries are half of what companies such as Google can offer top graduates. Also, many do not want to wait the requisite amount of time to get a clearance, when they would be able to start immediately at a tech firm, Carson said. While in the Pentagon, Carson led Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s “Force of the Future” initiative to improve recruitment. He said even though the need to get the smartest candidates is now a large need in cyber, the need will grow to all career fields.