West 2020

Cyber warriors need constant training, says senior Navy official

The commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet wants cyber protection teams to participate in training simulations when they aren't on a mission.

Vice Adm. Michael Gilday said Tuesday at the AFCEA West conference in San Diego that these teams must have consistent training to be ready to take on a multitude of challenges in cyberspace.

The Navy officer described to conference attendees an environment in which there is an increase in threat actors and their capabilities — both in the stealth and lethality of malware, which is growing increasingly cheaper — and a higher degree of the use of automation from proxies operating on behalf of nation states.

Gilday's concern is that cyber skills can quickly atrophy. He stressed the need for a persistent training environment so operators could train each day they're not on a mission.

The persistent training environment has been a top priority for the Department of Defense. Just like soldiers go to the rifle range to hone their marksmanship, cyber warriors need a space to hone their hacking and defense skills. The initiative would serve as a range for cyber warriors to receive ongoing, realistic training.

The Army will be heading up this effort.

Gilday also stressed the need for capabilities. "I described a threat actor that can get their hands on new tools literally by the hour," he said. "I need better tools than the adversary has."

This involves not only attracting the best developers available to the "U.S. Navy so we can bring a punch to the fight," but leveraging new acquisition vehicles such as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, to rapidly purchase tools, he said.

"How do you continue to improve yourself on a constant basis is tough in an acquisition system where progress is measured in years and not hours, weeks and months," Gilday told reporters following his remarks.

DIUx will be an important partner, he said, because "the acquisition cycle [that] currently takes a couple of years is not going to do it for us."

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