Attrition: Internet Geeks Have More Choices


February 22, 2017: Estonia has joined a growing list of nations to set up a special program for conscripts with technical skills that are in high demand and that the military never has enough of. Estonia is offering qualified (via a test and interview) young men due to be conscripted the option to of serving their 11 months of conscript service providing their computer expertise for the military. The Estonians also hope to entice some of these cyber conscripts to join a para-military cyber reserve force.

The United States stopped using conscription in the early 1970s, just as the first personal computers were showing up, so cannot do what Estonia is trying. But before peacetime conscription ended the U.S. military did have a program for conscripts with rare technical skills and they were offered the opportunity to spend most of their 24 months of conscript service working in a government R&D facility. This included opportunities to work on ballistic missiles, computers and all manner of new electronics. Few qualified (a recent PhD in science would do) conscripts turned down this offer. But the supply of these young PhDs in science disappeared with conscription. Israel, which still uses conscription takes young men before they get to college. But it does test them for special skills and those that show aptitude (or previous experience) in computer related areas are given the option to work in that area for their military service (both the two years of active duty and for the decades of reserve duty that follows.)

The U.S. military did recently set up a "Cyber Corps" program that gives tuition assistance to college students studying computer security, in order to increase the number of qualified experts in this area. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security established working relationships with existing computer security groups, while the Department of Defense encouraged the services to set up computer security operations. The air force established the first Cyber Command, a major operation that morphed into a major command for defense related Internet security operations.

The U.S. Army sought to make something of an older Cyber Corps concept, by recruiting existing army reservists with computer security experience and organizing them into the Reserve Information Operations Command. These reservists have civilian jobs in computer and Internet security, and most make more than the government could afford to pay them. But in the event of an Internet "battle", the Reserve Information Operations Command would quickly provide the army with a collection of expert operators to analyze, and deal with, the threat. The army Cyber Command is still recruiting for this duty but now as part of USCYBERCOM (United States Cyber Command).

The U.S. government continues to set up more programs to harness and coordinate the efforts of white hat hacker volunteers who are willing to help out if the country finds itself in a Cyber War and is in need of all the help it can get. Other countries, especially China, have done the same.




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