In today’s world, the definition of security has changed.  George Orwell once said, ”People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

That is still true today, as the war on terrorism has shown, but along side of those rough men, we require a new breed of warrior.

Alan Pallor of the SANS Institute recently said that the newest weapon is “the techie that can strike and defend in Cyber Space while still making everyone happy” with how the system is running.  He was only speaking partially with his tongue in his cheek.  We now face a time when running a computer well exceeds the ability to utilize a kinetic weapon in our quest for security.  The young men and women we need today have to be thoroughly knowledgeable in not just how to use their computer, but how it works, how it can be used, and what are its vulnerabilities.  They need to be quick thinkers, comfortable with decision making, and ready to stand behind their own choices.  In the cyber realm, there is never time to “go back to headquarters” for instructions.  These warriors will have to act quickly, or face defeat.

There is already a fight on between the private sector, law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community to recruit the right people to be “Cyber Warriors”.  They have recognized that you cannot hire just anyone, and then train them to do this.  That has some value, needs to be done, but is far from sufficient in this new global situation.  Cyber warriors are like those that become fighter pilots.  No amount of training will put in the critical skill sets; some are born with them (the few), others are not (the majority).  The really good ones do not just operate the equipment, but seem to become “one” with it.  The Submarine service in the Navy has found young men who can operate their crucial sonar gear in ways that far exceed their peers.  Every boat has a certain sonar operator that the captain always wants on duty during a crisis.  That is the kind of Cyber Warrior we need today.

There are simply not enough of these stellar performers.  We need to grow them, or we will lose the fight to secure cyber space.  Many of these gifted individuals have already gone over to criminal networks (Eastern Europe seems to be rife with them).  This hemorrhaging must be stopped, and the people recruited to help protect our Nation’s cyber sinews.  They are needed in all of the sectors which are competing for their services.  We frankly cannot afford to recruit them all for one area, and leave another unfilled.

The Obama Administration’s call for a national education campaign is a good starting point, but is far too little, and may be too late.  To meet this need, we should begin to try and identify those with the skills as young as possible then channel them toward the right educational opportunities.  Scholarships and grants must be made available for those who show promise in these areas.  Everyone needs better education in cyber security, but beyond that, we need to find the future cyber warriors the nation requires, and develop their skills.  The longer we wait, the larger our “skills gap” will grow.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More