The Army’s top cyberwarfare commander was impressed by the engineering graduate from one of the country’s best universities. She’d just joined the National Guard and she had the kind of resume he wanted from a new recruit.
Then he learned recruiters had steered her away from joining the ranks of the Army’s cyberwarriors, and that the Army’s ban on visible tattoos prohibited her from becoming an officer despite her stellar degree.
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon may find a way to bring the young woman into the Army’s cyber program, but on the day of their meeting at the University of California, Berkeley, her career track looked like a missed opportunity.
“We need to open up (recruiting for cyberwarfare) so we reflect society and we get the skills we need,” said Cardon, chief of the Army’s Cyber Command.
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Cardon was one of the keynote speakers Tuesday at a University of Washington Tacoma forum on cybersecurity that drew several hundred participants from military, local government agencies, academia and the private sector. They spent a day looking for ways they might collaborate to protect critical infrastructure from potentially crippling network attacks.
UWT has been a home for those discussions in recent years, anchored by a growing cybersecurity program it developed in response to recommendations from the National Guard.
“Cybersecurity is a problem created by the Internet, and it’s not going away until the Internet goes away,” said Michael Cockrill, Washington state’s chief information officer.
Cardon’s visit to Tacoma came on the heels of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent unveiling of a Pentagon cybersecurity strategy that includes a renewed relationship with Silicon Valley firms and an assurance that the Defense Department would intervene to prevent cyberattacks of “significant consequence.” Carter spoke about the plan last month at Stanford University and he made time to tour California technology companies.
Similarly, Cardon said he wanted to visit the Puget Sound region to nurture ties with technology firms based here.
“I do not believe we’re connected as well as we should be to the West Coast,” he said.
Some of the participants pressed him on the definition of “significant consequence.” Federal law prohibits the military from participating in domestic law enforcement investigations, which could be a barrier from unleashing the Pentagon’s cybersoldiers on an internal threat.
“The fear is an American soldier working against an American citizen,” Cardon said.
Yet military personnel in the forum shared concerns that those barriers could slow a response against a foreign organization attacking a local utility.
“What is the situation when we should intervene?” asked Lt. Daryl Schmitt, an airman in a cybersecurity unit at Joint Base San Antonio. “Is it when thousands of people might die?”
Cardon could not give Schmitt a clear answer, saying the attacks would be evaluated on a “case-by-case” basis.
Cardon’s command primarily is charged with defending military networks against cyberattacks. It also can be used for offensive operations that would benefit military combat commanders in battle. He would not describe those roles.
“I have a security clearance and I want to keep it,” he joked.
Cardon has been behind several Army efforts to reconsider the pay and perquisites it offers to soldiers with cybersecurity backgrounds. In April, he announced incentives that could offer them up to $500 a month in additional pay.
The Army last year created a special six-year enlistment for Cyber Command. Cardon said recruiting for that assignment has been easy, but he worries about keeping well-trained soldiers in the military. “The challenge will be retaining them,” he said.