Baker College recently won the third Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio. The DoD has a history of seeking individuals from competitions like this or from hacker conventions like DEFCON to recruit into its information warfare programs. In the past, the DoD has even funded training for people with no IT background whatsoever, looking only for people with an interest in the field.
The military already has personnel within its ranks (both officer and enlisted) with the skills, integrity, leadership and security clearance (a costly factor to obtain elsewhere) to assign to information warfare units like the Air Force Cyber Command, Army LIWA or one of many network operation centers. Less well known is the victory by West Point cadets in the annual Cyber Defense Exercise (CDX) conducted between military service academies where participants defend a network against professional hackers from the NSA. Unfortunately, many of these individuals will never see assignment into such a specialized unit since the Army forces its people through a self-imposed system of "check the box" career progression along with generally blind roster filling by Human Resources Command (HRC). Many of OmniNerd’s own members were once offered slots with the NSA after winning the first CDX in 2001, but were denied the opportunity by HRC.
As with all things, history continues to repeat itself as Army HRC fails to properly allocate its existing IT professionals. The Army is granting waivers for felons to join the ranks as a means of filling a shortage of soldiers. Such an action will undoubtedly be useful if the Air Force and Army will be populating the new Cyber Command and information warfare programs with black hat hackers that "might have broken the law in the course of acquiring the 1337 hax0r skillz that would make them useful to the military." Knowing that foreign militaries (China, North Korea, Russia, etc.) are ramping up advanced hacking cells, it makes strategic sense for America to do the same. Naturally this leads one to question how reliable, ethical and disciplined our information warfare teams will be if populated by criminals instead of improperly assigning its existing personnel to simply fill gaps.
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