Hiring military leaders off the street

MILIT032Lots of snark talk from the military types out there. I understand it, but don’t have to agree with it. Over the weekend Military Times put out an article that above the fold states.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants to open the door for more “lateral entry” into the military’s upper ranks, clearing the way for lifelong civilians with vital skills and strong résumés to enter the officer corps as high as the O-6 pay grade.

The idea is controversial, to say the very least. For many in the rank-and-file military, it seems absurd, a bewildering cultural change that threatens to upend many assumptions about military life and traditional career paths. But while it’s not universally embraced, there is interest in Congress and among some of the military’s uniformed leaders — even, they say, in exploring how the services could apply this concept to the enlisted force.

The article has some good speculation by former military officers and one silly discussion about Mark Zuckerberg, but in general lots of speculation and derision. The horror of long haired hippies invading the sanctum of military affairs is egregious. Even though I happen to know a few former general officers and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense types who are burners. The other criticism is who in the world would be interested in putting on the uniform that might be interesting to the military?

Well my wife and I are good examples.

The idea as suggested is to fill out the ranks of CyberCom, ARCYBER and 10th fleet. There is a lot of discussion of the edge case (hippy, dope smoking, crazy people!). Lets talk about the other edge. Given two policy alignments this would be very interesting. If the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (15 years) was extended another decade, and if civilian government service was credited (authorized under Title 10) towards military retirement (and the reverse is also true).

Up front I recognize this is a rob Peter to pay Paul in a very strict sense. As a rational actor I’d like the opportunity to choose.

First up, lets consider me. I’m 50 years old, I have  PhD in Technology from Purdue focusing on information security (dissertation on cyber warfare). I’ve served in the Army National Guard, the Marine Corps, law enforcement, and several very senior technical roles in industry (senior network consultant for MCIWorldcom, NCR, Sun Microsystems, etc). I’ve taught for almost two years at National Defense University (Joint Service) at the Information Resources Management College and National War College. I have been an invited speaker on cyber strategy and information security at the Air War College, and Army War College multiple times. I have lectured on cyber at the military academies. I was the CISO for a major Army command and worked very closely with ARCYBER and CYBERCOM. I have a very good understanding of Title 10 as well as Title 50. I currently serve as what the DoD would call a DISL. This is equivalent to civilian SES grade or corresponding GS16 grade (as a special advisor on cyber to the intelligence community). For protocol purposes this is equivalent to a one star general or admiral.

Second up consider my wife Sydney. She is currently the interim chief of digital forensics at a major Army command. She has a masters degree in computer science, is ABD in Technology from Purdue (dissertation in forensic tool development). She is a former professor of technology and worked in industry as a senior software engineer. She holds a handful of SANS certifications (GCIH, GCFA, GREM, and GNFA pending). She sits in a GS13 slot (equivalent to a major) with about 5 years of government service. Sydney is not prior service but is highly respected by her command cadre. She knows all of her military courtesy and never spent a day in boot camp (I did two!). It is simply being a professional that confers her the military leaderships respect.

Given that we’re rational actors why would we be interested in joining the military? First the mission set is “cyber” and we’re both recognized subject matter experts at this. There are a few reasons some make sense to seasoned individuals some don’t. We are about to become empty nesters. We won’t have the worry about kids, schools, moving, and such that younger officers have. Currently we are renting so we don’t have to worry about moving. I got out of the Marines for a medical issue that is trivial compared to what people stay in the service with today. We are both very healthy (running at least 30 minutes every day). We both can pass a physical readiness test right now. We enjoy challenge and adventure. Cyber is the family business.

Show me the money!

There is one overriding, significant reason we would want to to this. Even though it would be a real demotion for me and likely deduction in pay for both of us. It would be worth it. If TERA is in place, and we can move our gov retirement credits over in full. At age 60 we would have 15 years of service in place drawing what I imagine is 37.5% of my top three years. Given that under civilian retirement rules I can’t retire until at least 65 years of age (I would have a nearly 20 years of credit). At 20 years of military service you receive 50% of your top 3 years. At 20 years of civilian service I will get approximately 22% of my top 3. Even given a 33% difference in pay over the years. It is a simple equation for both of us to jump to the military cyber role.

So, Ash Carter, give us a call. If one of the services is willing to take both of us as an O6 and O4 we really enjoy working together and destroying nation state actors capabilities. Make it a G1 slot and I’m your huckleberry. Let the adventure commence.

Leave a Reply