Asymmetric Dialogue

Who Says Cyber Warriors Need to Wear a Uniform?



Gallons of ink have been spilled since the Department of Defense began exploring plans to permit cyber-qualified information technology specialists to join the military at ranks above entry-level and without undergoing entry-level military training. The idea was initially floated in June 2016, with the Army, Navy and Air Force all considering implementation. In May 2017, the internet almost broke when the Marine Corps weighed whether to allow cyber recruits to skip basic training and enter as staff sergeants, not unlike “The President's Own”—the Marine Band. The debate has centered around whether allowing Marines to skip the time-honored leveling and shaping experience of boot camp and granting them “unearned” rank would be detrimental to the service ethos. But much of the commentary is missing a more fundamental question: Why does the new crop of cyber operations specialists need to be in the military at all? Spoiler alert: they do not. And an elite Marine Corps shows why.