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USMC Won’t Let Standards Slip for New Cyber Marines

Pfc. Alec Rivera, a cyber-network specialist with Headquarters Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, works on a computer during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 2, 2016. US Marine Corps Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Marine Corps top cyber leader said it wasn’t going to lower physical standards to allow more candidates for its new cyber MOS.

“First be a Marine, then a rifleman” and finally a cyber warrior, Maj. Gen. Lori Reynolds said on Tuesday at the Navy League’s 2017 Sea Air Space exposition.

Even though “the eligible population is shrinking” because they do not meet height, weight, strength, intellectual and moral standards of the service, the Marines will keep the same standards for those in the service focused on cyber.

“We’re going to look for everything” in a recruit, she said.

Speaking as part of a panel on cyber operations, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet, agreed and added, “You don’t have to wear a uniform to play in this game.”

Picking up on that, Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander of the Coast Guard’s Cyber Command, said the emphasis should be looking at changing the personnel management system, such as the “blended retirement” plan now coming into play in the Defense Department as a way to attract qualified candidates. Changes like that offer recruits off-ramps so they can move between active service and a civilian career and possibly back to active duty. “That benefits both communities.”

The Marine Corps, for example, is also developing a career path for a cyber MOS.

The immediate planning challenge facing all services is the impact of another Continuing Resolution, rather than a budget. Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, director of naval intelligence, said it affects the Navy’s ability to move sailors from one position to another and also to hire new civilian workers. “This is not the way a competitive organization behaves.”
The Continuing Resolution “reduces your flexibility,” Reynolds added. “You’re managing risk rather than executing the plan.”

In looking at the broader challenges facing the services, government and private sector, Tighe said all “are inundated daily with malware,” designed to do everything from disrupting military operations to carrying out criminal activity.

Like the others Reynolds said the first step the Marine Corps took was “to flatten and harden its networks” from intrusions and attacks.

The focus of the U.S. Cyber National Mission Force is on Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, Rear Adm. Tim White, its commander, said. Instead of random intrusions, “they’re building what I call campaigns” to attack military, government and civilian operations. In answer to an audience question, he described it as a “less than advanced” threat using artificial intelligence, etc., “but persistent.”

They are simply not looking for “targets of opportunity” in these campaigns, Tighe added.

To better counter that coordinated effort by nation states, “you can’t just look at dot mil” for a solution, Gilday said. Dot gov and dot com can be of great assistance in cyber, an area where the private sector has taken the technological lead “with its speed of innovation.”

“Industry will be the key” because of its competitive nature, White said in answer to a later question. “You will find ways” to find a solution.

Allies and partners also need to be up to speed in cyber defense and offensive measures. “Clearly we’re not going to fight alone,” Tighe said. “We really need to be [able] to leverage” their skills and authorities, Gilday added.

Commanders at all levels have to be aware of cyber security. “This is the most connected generation” in history, Reynolds said.

How does that affect operational security? As an example, she said a number of commanders have told their civilians and Marines to leave their iPhones in their cars. The reason: the GPS function, identifying where the work was being done.

Tighe added steps like that are, “building that culture of accountability.”

  • b2

    OMG, this is real military news?
    The Marines (182K folks) have a 2-star in charge of cyber Warfare, for itself, within the Dept of the Navy? Heck, I remember when the Commandant was a three star…To even think that the Coast Guard of the DOT/Homeland Security has an RADM in charge of Cyber Warfare? WTF,O?
    is this article a real perspective on something important or is this just PR/HR driven enterprises expounding to the press?
    Sorry gents/Ladies I’m thinking of trigger pullers and artillerymen on the ground in Syria covered by F-18/F-16 on call CAS jets…

    • RDF

      Well the lack of attention to these distractions cost us our last presidential election, and who knows what else? The only thing that gives me some comfort is most of the MIL com’s are frontended with crypto and that stuff and the keys are cycled on a synchronous basis. Otherwise I would be purchasing mre and camping gear.

      • b2

        Sure.. People in Wisconsin were compelled electronically by Putin to elect D. Trump…Manchurian Candidate style, eh? All we can do is monitor our own assets and business in this digital net.. But of course our own govmint has released everything about us inadvertently! Just giving our opinions in places like this gets us on a list…
        My point was just like the creation of Homeland Security, Director of Intelligence and TSA (we know how good that has worked out…) this is just a smaller version within the services (even the coast guard..) to stand up new staffs, create new processes and new budgets…
        What’s wrong with the existing J-2/J-6 organizations each service has? Amazing how we got through and actually won the Cold War without devising new commands and organizational processes constantly……just saying.

        • RDF

          good points. I have issues with forming a group for each service that really requires about 4 years of hands on serious IT work to BEGIN to get a handle on the moving parts. The DOD needs a GEEK SQUAD they can share. thanks for the response.

        • RDF

          you can discount it all you like, but the proof is there and more coming in everyday. It was an act of war. And it should be treated as such.

      • USMC1777

        …”cost us our last presidential election,” Who is “us”? Thank God the electorate selected someone who is not a liar, thief, and MAJOR national security violator not to mention the candidate who accepted funds from foreign governments in exchange for God only knows…You’re right, had the other candidate been elected you would need MREs and camping gear.

        • RDF

          us is US.. you, me, all of us. who else ?

  • yeright

    How can they handle cyber warfare as they cannot even keep their marines in line concerning online nude photos? Do you really think it is wise to give these marines, who already show such lack of integrity hacking skills? Is that really a good idea? And if it’s their culture that causes that type of behavior, how is adding cyber warfare to the mix not going to cause damage to American citizens they just think are lesser than them?

    And if they cannot get these marines in line the security threat will be much less the outside and rather an inner threat amongst their own. The same standard may not be good enough in the case of security. They seem to be highly focused on software issues where the real threat might be social engineering and/or the behavior we see now that can translate from online nude pics to more riskier behavior. They need to up the standard and make sure they do thorough screening of those applying or the marines will have another disaster that might be more than just online sexual harassment and instead a breach of national security.

    • RDF

      The sysadmins have the keys to the kingdom. That is for sure. Maybe some of that trumpian “extreme vetting” is in order here. Your concern with clothing is interesting but not central to the issue. Good point about national security.

      • yeright

        You missed the point, I’m referencing the behavior of the marines posting nude photos without consent “incident”, not a focus on the actual lack of clothing.

        • RDF

          Not the first one I have missed.

    • bwp870

      Your concerns are founded on nothing but a misunderstanding of the facts and an obvious lack of knowledge of Marine Corps culture. We think American citizen civilians are less than us? Why would we risk our lives and be voluntarily separated from our families to protect the freedoms of this country and its citizens if we viewed them as “lesser”? I don’t know what would even make you think that. As for our “culture that causes” this Marines United scandal type of behavior, are you talking about the culture of being a family and looking out for that Marine to your left and right? Treating all with honor and respect? Or maybe the courage to call out something wrong when you see it, just like the MARINE who broke the story on Marines United because he knew it was wrong and it needed to be dealt with!
      So 30,000+ member in Marines United. Did you know that the nude photo scandal was on a password protected private cloud drive which 500 members had access to? That is 1.6% of the Marines United group that partook in this disgusting behavior. I would not call 1.6% of the population an accurate reflection of any culture. We could only be so lucky if our nation’s crime rate were close to 1.6%.
      It is the Marine culture that is taking this problem head on. As for Marine cyber specialists being able to damage American citizens, under Title 10 authorities the DOD can not target American citizens, and we are not even provided the capabilities to do so if we wanted to. So you have no clue and no context to what you are talking about.
      You are entitled to your opinion but you should be ashamed for you ignorance.

  • paul9r9r

    What standard? If a female is a Marine, then isn’t her standard adequate for all Marines, including the Cyber ones?

    This “standard” business is proven to be somewhat phony by not making females meet it.

    • Dennis

      Agreed. The BAMS never really had to abide by the same standards. That’s how they got their moniker!

  • Dennis

    So when the nation needs some expert cyber people, it cannot look to the Marines because the brightest and most knowledgeable were turned down because they couldn’t run as fast as the grunts? That means the other services will have the bright ones and the Marines…well, will have the dumb ones!