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The Military Security The Internet United States

US Army Could Waive Combat Training For Hackers 223

An anonymous reader sends word that the U.S. Army may adjust some of its training practices and rules in order to attract the best "cyber warriors" available. "New U.S. Army cyber warriors could be spared the rigors of combat training to help the Pentagon attract badly needed recruits from the ponytail wearing Google generation, a top American general has suggested. Lt Gen Brown, commander of the US Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, said: 'We need to give serious consideration to how the US Army could combine the technical expertise of the "Google" generation with its more traditional military skills. In order to gain an intellectual advantage over adversaries in cyberspace, we will need to tap into a talent pool that may not fit the stereotypical soldier profile. Our goal is to recruit the best talent possible.'" This is not the first time there has been talk about loosening requirements to fill these roles.
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US Army Could Waive Combat Training For Hackers

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:07PM (#48707077) Homepage

    How hard is it for a twenty something year old to get into basic fitness? Perhaps if there is a good candidate but would otherwise fall out because of fitness, work with them in 'pre basic' to get up to speed. It needn't be punative - might be the best thing that happened to them. For really handicapped people (say someone with paralysis), perhaps a medical waiver.
    But to have a whole group of 'different' Army folks - not such a good idea.

    • by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:12PM (#48707121)
      Hackers seem to come it two shapes: grossly overweight, constantly snacking one and skinny kid looking like bag of bones. The second type could be brought up to speed in relatively short time (2-3 months of quite light exercise) - they might even like it. But the first kind ... just forget it.
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:12PM (#48707125)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Schedule_(US_civil_service_pay_scale) [wikipedia.org]

      But to have a whole group of 'different' Army folks - not such a good idea.

      100% agreement.

      If they are NOT going to be deployed then hire them as GS whatever.

      If they ARE going to be deployed to a situation where they can be shot then they need combat training.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        they want them to be sworn soldiers. there's a magical difference between sworn and unsworn.
        if they ask a hacker to create a virus that causes an enemy industrial site to explode and kill the workers & scientists, refusing to do so because of "moral grounds" is now a court martial.

        • if they ask a hacker to create a virus that causes an enemy industrial site to explode and kill the workers & scientists, refusing to do so because of "moral grounds" is now a court martial.

          An unlikely scenario. On the other hand, having them in uniform allows tighter control over both them and the product. I've worked with plenty of top-tier programmers who were not fat Cheeto-eating pigs. But boot camp and Army PT simply isn't all that hard.

        • What moral grounds? That is nonsense and anyone who stands on that doesn't understand the situation.

          Would it not have been moral to kill to workers and scientists who developed the V1 and V2 flying bombs that killed thousands of civilians?

          Of course it would have been, so if those same people are making weapons that will kill us, then killing them first is perfectly moral.

          These are the same idiots who claim the nuclear weapons used against Japan were immoral. Anyone who claims that simply doesn't understan

        • Sort of.

          1) You can (even in uniform) refuse an "unlawful" order, according to the UCMJ. If you can successfully point it out in a courts martial, it can include things like refusing an order to torture someone, shooting unarmed children, and similar things. It is also why the "I was just following orders" spiel is not a defense in court should you commit an atrocity and get hauled before a tribunal for it. This link looks like a good civilian-ready primer [about.com] on how that works.

          2) It doesn't require a uniform to

          • It is also why the "I was just following orders" spiel is not a defense in court should you commit an atrocity and get hauled before a tribunal for it.

            Maybe not in the US Army, but we also seem to hold that standard to other nations.

            Example, Germany in WWII, we tried many soldiers for things they did "under orders". But the difference was, they may well have been shot for not doing it, more likely towards the end of the war.

            An extreme example was in Berlin, near the end. Even the very young and the very old men were expected to fight. Even just trying to leave the city, the penalty was death.

            In such a situation, "I was just following orders, under pain

          • You can (even in uniform) refuse an "unlawful" order, according to the UCMJ.

            Yes. You will have to justify it though.

            Anyway, back to the previous comment:

            there's a magical difference between sworn and unsworn.

            It's not magical. It's "military" and "civilian". If you're military then the UCMJ replaces the civilian laws.

            if they ask a hacker to create a virus ....

            The military does not create the weapons that it uses. It buys them from civilians. The M-16? Parts made by Mattel. The same company that makes Barbie

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        What is really going on, is these 'google types' used to be called contractors and worked for private for profit corporations who contracted to the military and intelligence agencies. The problem of course is those contractors were very, very, prone to lie and completely distort intelligence gathered in order to promote profit generating activity. The military and intelligence communities are realising that private for profit contractors suck big time, and the person doing the work needs to be under tight

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      But to have a whole group of 'different' Army folks - not such a good idea.

      How about an entirely different branch of service then? We already have the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Public Health Service. The first five are part of the DOD, the other two aren't. Simply create a new branch, in the way that the Air Force was spun-off from the Army. Decide if there will ever be forward-deployed personnel,

      • How about an entirely different branch of service then?

        Why not deal with it the way we already deal with such things: contractors? We already hire non-combatant talent in other areas, why not this?

        • If you're willing to bring civilians into it, why not letters of marque, after all they're already authorized by the constitution.
          • If you're willing to bring civilians into it,

            We already bring civilians into it. They're called "contractors".

            why not letters of marque

            Because military actions are not supposed to be acts of individual reprisal conducted by private citizens, they're conducted by a government. We would assume that the intended cyber-target had not personally targeted the "hacker" being employed to attack that target, so there would be no personal reprisal to start with.

      • This.

        Basic training means different things to different branches--field-stripping a rifle is replaced with using Wireshark or disassembling some code or basic drone flight (even for pure (h|cr)ackers) in the theoretical ChairForce (LOVE that term).

        Probably still a bit of a physical fitness/discipline requirement (arranging into squads, e.g.),but no need to be so intense. Or more accurately, time-consuming with all the march-20-miles stuff. Maybe 30 mins/day of calesthenics and certain minimum proficiency

    • There are many benefits for the government to have "soldiers" doing the cyber stuff as opposed to hiring civilians, though I'll spare repeating what many others have already said in other comments. However, for the military to be able to find hackers AND in-shape bodies significantly reduces the available pool of candidates. These guys will never see combat and therefore have no reason to adhere to the same physical standards, though I do think they should be trained in at least some of the aspects such as
    • all we really need is a good group of Hot Drill Instructors then we could get them into shape fairly quickly.

      Otherwise think Combat/Field bonuses (heck make it a GAME hmm Americas Army is still running right??).

      "All Right You Grubs most of you kick ass in Games. Well Speaking as your Game Master i would like to tell you that this game You HAVE ONE LIFE and my job is to see to it that you can handle being deployed to the Field. Now as a Hacker you must be able to travel with THIS PACK IN ARMOUR because that

    • I think the point is that these type of people are generally NOT interested in fitness. If that's the requirement you eliminate 99% of the technical people and are left with a relatively small pool who don't fit the profile of a good hacker-type because they make time for fitness and generally don't spend as much time on the tech. Only so much time in the day.. if you're pumping iron you're not pumping code.. Doctors, nurses, and chaplains are already on such a modified program and do not have to fitness q
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you're in the Army, you're a legitimate, Geneva Convention-certified MILITARY TARGET.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      A lot of people think that by joining and taking up a civilian-ish MOS, they're not actually in any danger. Which is simply not true. I had, for example, a friend who joined up for a job doing lab biopsies of medical samples. Figured he'd always be stateside. Then the Iraq War broke out and they simply reclassified his whole unit as field medics and send them over to a FOB near Fallujah.

      If you're in the military and they decide they need more people on the front lines, it doesn't matter what your MOS is, yo

      • yup... I did US Army back in the early 70s.. Was initially drafted, got the song-dance in boot camp about re-upping for an additional year to *avoid* being an 11B (Infantryman). I thought I'd avoided that by opting for training as a radar repair tech.. Funny thing... I got sent to Vietnam and guess what? they had no open slots for a fixer of this particular radar, so I got assigned as an *operator* of this particular radar (AN/PPS5, a 3-man-pack-able anti-personnel radar), which was essentially an 11B "grun

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      With all the rights, privileges and responsibilities associated with that position. If you're not, well, what is it the US does with non-uniformed combatants?

  • This is a job well suited to mercenaries. They don't risk their lives.

    The great danger and draw back of mercenaries is that they will not fight to the death. But hackers don't die when they lose a battle.

    This concept is likely hateful to the military largely for traditional reasons. But they need to get over that. Fill the role with mercenaries and contractors. Bind them to US service, give the company a budget from the federal government, provide them with federal protection to keep them from getting assas

    • The use of mercenaries is bad for a nation. Mercenaries are only loyal to their paycheck, not your country. The Roman empire fell because they switched their military to mercenaries.
      • As to mercenaries being bad for a nation, not at all.

        Consider the age of sail with the privateers. This was at a time when nations didn't have formal navies of any note. Yet those same countries had large merchant fleets with skilled sailors well able to become a navy.

        Of course, they were not going to turn over their ships to the king or sign up for service if it meant losing their independence. They worked for those ships. They belonged to them. And their skills were highly in demand so they didn't need to

      • Mercenaries can be useful though somewhat less reliable, you really only get into trouble when they're more numerous/powerful than your regular armed forces.
  • Wrong Stereotype (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:08PM (#48707095)

    It isn't physical activity that scares off hackers, it's that the entire military lifestyle and mindset is something that runs counter to the hacking culture.

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:11PM (#48707115)
    "the ponytail wearing Google generation" - that is a hell of a lazy shot in the dark. But such reporting is all too frequently the norm among the latest generation of journalists. "We need to give serious consideration to how the Press could combine the technical expertise of the "Facebook" generation with its more traditional journalistic skills" - said Worthington Alfredingtonshite, god-king of journalists.
    • Yeah, I was having trouble figuring that out. I think of "ponytail-wearing hackers" as those members of my (Boomer) generation who still have enough hair to tie up. And sorry, the Army tried to draft me once (my birthday made its saving throw successfully), taxed me for decades to pay for the Vietnam and Cold and Anti-Muslim Wars, and they're not going to get another chance.

  • Dress Code (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:13PM (#48707129)
    Will they also let the "ponytail wearing Google generation" wear their ponytails? How about their bespoke frontiersman beards?
  • by Syncerus ( 213609 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:23PM (#48707189)

    Bear in mind this is already done for medical recruits. You don't seriously think they make neurosurgeons undergo the rigors of basic training do you? When last I heard MD recruits had a 3 week familiarization course on military customs and courtesy.

    • Yes, but the Medical Corps (MC) is a staff corps (non-combat branch) of the US Army.

      We perhaps could create something similar for computer specialists in "games and theory". :)

      Then again, doctors enter at a minimum rank of second lieutenant, but frankly the pay is terrible compared to much of the civilian world.

      The Army will have the same problem, to get the very best computer specialists they have to compete with Google and Apple to hire them. Is the US Army really prepared to pay six figures to 22 year o

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @04:28PM (#48707239) Homepage

    The Army is already a 2nd tier service with lower standards. Short of creating an entirely new branch of the service, they aren't going to get away from the fact that they are the Army and get whatever cultural baggage comes along with that.

    Watering down bootcamp is really not going to address the real problem.

    They spun off the Air Corps and there wasn't nearly as much of a culture gap going on there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This would be like trying to put a cat in uniform. You could do it, but you're not going to get the results you expect. The people equipped to establish and maintain military discipline are not usually the same people who need to give competent orders to the hackers.

    Contractors are the way to go here. Hackers can be motivated by money and will take the orders to reap the rewards. Telling them they have to do something because "it's an order" isn't going to work.

    US Army veteran
    Microsoft veteran

  • Basic Training is about a lot more than combat training. It is about teaching the value of the command structure, of camaraderie, of working as a team and relying on your buddies. If "hackers" aren't able or willing to go through that training then they should be hired as civilian contractors. We are already outsourcing lots of jobs that used to be done by soldiers.

    But the thing that unites everyone in the military is a set of core experiences and the values that come from them.

  • you have two kinds of deployment situations: those that need to be in the field, and those that can remain back at a base (preferably outside of the country). i would question even the need for an army to *have* the second type of individual when they could just as easily have someone from e.g. the CIA or elsewhere be contracted in.

    so that would leave the first group - hackers that could need to be deployed in the field. now, i don't know about you, but if i was an ordinary soldier, along-side someone who

    • So why not make boot camp sound attractive?

      "Tired of being seen as a nerdy geek? We can fix that for you. A regimen of training to get you physically in shape will make you more attractive to the opposite (or same) sex, and invigorate your brain, enabling you to do even more marathon game sessions. We'll help you make an even greater impression on the folks back home by throwing in a spiffy uniform. And you'll get paid to do what you do best."

  • Even if we know for sure that they will not ever even be on the same continent as deployed troopers, they need to be in shape. The stereotypical obese hacker, working out of their mother's basement might cut it for an amateur, but a professional hackers needs a littler more discipline.
  • Most people in the military have some sort of job and they receive training for that. They don't spend much time learning to be a commando.

    Are you talking about boot camp? Bootcamp doesn't really teach you about combat. It's more of a series of complex choreographies that you have to learn. The purpose of this mostly has to do with indoctrination and brainwashing. The military certainly isn't going to loosen its brainwashing requirements on cyberwarriors.

  • If you're actually going to wear the uniform, you need to go through the same stuff. If not, be a GS or contractor.

    Having a separate chunk of people that did not have to do that will breed resentment among the rest of the force. Most people in the Army/Navy/Air Force do not have 'combat jobs'. But they all need to meet the same minumum physical requirements, and all went through the same basic training.
  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @05:16PM (#48707631)

    The "hackers" I've seen in the movies wouldn't have much trouble with combat training:

    http://www.allaboutjackman.com... [allaboutjackman.com]
    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/Es2uYtSJ... [ytimg.com]

  • Just have them go through the Air Force boot camp, problem solved. signed, an old Army guy ;-)
  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2014 @05:37PM (#48707807)

    The purpose of basic training is to turn civilians into soldiers (not warriors, soldiers.) Prior to the modern army (as deployed by the Romans), battles were fought by a combination of highly-trained elite units (cavalry, well-trained melee combatants, etc.) and cowed peasants forced into battle at sword point. (As you might imagine, other than as a meat-shield vs. other peasants, this was not particularly useful.)

    Starting with the Romans, Western Armies took conscripts (or volunteers) and trained them, first and foremost, to follow orders as a unit without question (as in, not prod them in the back with a spear all the time). At the same time, they were taught basic combat skills. Such soldiers were certainly more effective than cowed peasants, and in many situations more effective than independently trained elite warriors, since they could function as a cohesive team.

    Nothing hackers do requires orders to be followed in seconds. Their orders do not involve putting themselves in the way of personal harm, so they don't need indoctrination/brainwashing to work against their natural survival instincts.

    Certainly you DO need them to follow orders, and a cohesive unit can be good for morale (this doesn't just apply to the military), but there have to be better ways to do it vs. basic training, and you'll needlessly exclude those with perfectly usable skills unsuited for traditional basic. (I will note that Army Basic, while tough, is not actually that hard to pass, physically. You need to be in decent shape by the end, yes, but not an athlete. It's the mental demands that causes the most flunk-outs.)

  • For those worried that we'll create a breed of soldier with no training, you're missing the point. America has not fought a war to defend itself in more than 50 years, and arguably longer than that without some provocation on our part. The last two clusterfucks, iraq and afghanistan, pitted armed soldiers in a formal military against guerilla fighters. In Iraq these were republican guard and former armed forces backed by local governments in the region, and in much the same style as the USSR faced when i
  • The limiting factors for recruitment of this type of individual are rarely the boot camp / combat training portion. The two main issues are pay, which is abysmal compared to what they could make elsewhere, and more importantly the culture. The people who are really really good at hacking and naturally interested are the exact kind that would find a top down hierarchy under military discipline to be intolerable. This is a solvable problem, but they're going to have to be willing to invest more time and re
  • I'm a hacker, nothin' more
    I won't quit until high score
    Sound off: if then
    Sound off: while for
    Bring it on down: if then while for if then WHILE FOR!

    Now drop and give me 20K lines of code, soldier

  • Doctors don't go through basic. They have to go through basic officer leadership. If you don't want to enlist them in as officers then they should have to go through the training. Honestly, we should be ashamed that we are willing to accept the belief that you can't be physically fit and use computers. Pretty shocking.
    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      Doctors don't go through basic.

      They do in the British army and there isn't even a shortage of them.

      Honestly, we should be ashamed that we are willing to accept the belief that you can't be physically fit and use computers.

      The problem is the pay. Make it worth their while.

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @12:54AM (#48709851)
  • I won't even dignify "patriotism" with more than a laugh.

    Can't pay a competitive wage. Can't offer benefits remotely close to what private employers will offer. Lose a ton of personal autonomy from matters trivial (no 420) to absolutely vital (Wanna move to a different state? Nope. Wanna quit? Nope. Wanna change jobs? Nope.) Be beholden to whatever high-functioning sociopaths make it through our joke of an electoral season.

    Oh, you might get to play with some cool toys that you might not have access to as a

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