Recruiting more cyber professionals is the key to improving the Army’s cyber capabilities, Ryan McCarthy, the White House nominee to become the next service secretary, told senators in a Sept. 12 hearing.

While the Army’s cyber capabilities got short shrift in the two hour hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCarthy, who is serving as the acting secretary, provided insight into his views on the subject under questioning from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Central to the Army’s efforts to improve its cyber capabilities is convincing skilled people to work with the Army instead of working in the private sector, he explained.

“It’s people,” he said. “We have to recruit more cyber experts. It’s a very difficult skill set to recruit, and even harder to retain.”

The Army has had some success in convincing cyber experts to stay involved as they transition to the private sector through total force solutions. Additionally, Army Futures Command has built connections with academic institutions to develop capabilities and recruit a workforce.

“We’ve established some unique relationships with academia like at Carnegie Mellon, which is where we’ve established an artificial intelligence task force,” said McCarthy. “This is as much a cultural indoctrination to the force as well as finding the best and brightest in [academia] to help us look at how do we apply these algorithms into our weapon systems.”

The Army also has footprints for cyber at Middle Georgia State University and hypersonics at Wichita State University, the nominee noted in his written answers to advanced questions.

In addition, threats from nations such as China have pushed the Army to develop better capabilities in the cyber and space domains, McCarthy said. If confirmed, McCarthy said a major focus will be acquiring a cloud, improving network quality and investing in satellites.

“If we can’t get the Army to the cloud, the standards and formats of the data will not move seamlessly from system to system," he said. “This will become a big effort by us and our leadership team to make sure we have the appropriate resources, focus and attention to move forward.”

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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