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Navy expands 'cyber warrant' program to attract more tech-savvy sailors

Oct. 31, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
(John Harman/Staff)
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The Navy is increasing its ranks of cyberwarfare sailors — about 1,000 more could join Fleet Cyber Command by fiscal 2016.

But those sailors need leaders, and a program designed to build the Navy’s “cyber warrant” corps stumbled out of the gate. The Navy’s not getting enough qualified applicants for designator 7430, cyber warrant officer, to supply the dozen or so cyber warrant billets it wants filled in the next two years.

As a result, it’s changing the selection criteria and extending the application deadline for this year’s board, hoping more sailors will apply.

Previously, interested chief petty officers and above had to hold Navy enlisted classification 9308, interactive network collection operator, said Lt. Cmdr. Joel Yates, information warfare officer community manager.

“We found that the 9308 [requirement] restricted the competitiveness of the people applying and as a result, [we] didn’t have enough applicants that were competitive,” Yates said. “It’s a very small pool of people who hold that NEC to start, and there’s just not enough of them to create a large enough applicant pool, so we decided to open it up so we can meet the numbers we’re trying to grow to.”

Applicants must be in the cryptologic technician networks rating, or be information systems technicians. There are about 1,100 ITs and about 130 CTNs ranked E-7 and above in the Navy. ITs are required to hold a master’s degree in order to apply.

ITs and CTNs must also meet all other criteria for the chief warrant officer commissioning program, open to chiefs and above.

Applications were supposed be filed to Navy Personnel Command by Oct. 1, but Yates said the deadline has been extended to Nov. 15. The warrant officer selection board meets Jan. 8.

In on the ground floor

The cyber warrant community was established in 2010; it’s been open to qualified cyber sailors since the 2011 CWO selection board

Right now, Yates said, there are only two active-duty officers who hold the cyber warrant officer designator. Another is slated to be commissioned later this year.

“What we’re trying do is grow to a total of 11 cyber warrants by fiscal year ’16,” Yates said. “This year we hope to be at [a total of] five, next year seven, and by FY ’16, we’ll hopefully be at the needed end strength of 11.”

The numbers likely won’t stay that low for long: Yates wouldn’t speculate on future growth, but Navy officials told Navy Times that because cyberwarfare is one of the fastest growing areas in the service, future growth is likely.

“That’s the incentive here,” Yates said. “We are a growing community and there’s a lot of opportunity to advance in the cyber community. “There’s also the longevity that coming into the warrant officer ranks brings, that’s also an incentive if a sailor wants to stay in uniform.”

Chief petty officers can stay until 24 years of total active service, senior chiefs to 26 and master chiefs to 30. Warrants can stay beyond 30 years — many spend as much as 40 years on active duty.

More information on the cyber warrant program is available in NAVADMIN 259/13, released Oct. 7.

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