Participants in the LandWarNet 2011 conference spoke with reporters last week about the changes and challenges facing the Army and the Department of Defense with regard to networks, e-mail, security and interconnectivity, as well as the key lines of effort that Cyber Command is focusing on.

Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, head of Army cyber command, reiterated that for a command focused on technology, people remain the focus, with growing an effective cyber workforce one of three lines of effort that make up the organization’s strategic roadmap.

“I envision a professional team of elite, trusted, precise, disciplined cyber warriors defending Army networks; when directed, able to provide dominant full-spectrum cyber effects, enabling mission command and ensuring a decisive global advantage” said Hernandez.

While the number of computer networks and data servers are being cut, the number of people needed to build, administer and operate those services is growing, panelists noted.

“We understand that there’s a finite number of folks in this country with the right skills and the right clearance or clearability to really help us in our mission set,” said Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, commander of the U.S. Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command and 9th Signal Command.

Thirty-four percent of the individuals who are currently working on Army and DoD networks are expected to retire in the next several years, said Napper. Which means attracting and retaining the right personnel will remain a critical part of meeting mission objectives in the “one mission, one network” focus of U.S. Army cyber efforts.

There are over 15,000 networks operating the the Department of Defense environment. An enterprise solution is being developed that will consolidate or eliminate many of these networks. Enterprise e-mail will free computer network assets throughout the military for other needs, said panelists. Personnel management at the enterprise level will also free up computing inventory. Multiple help centers, sometimes four or five at a base, will be replaced by an enterprise-wide help desk.

Asked at the conference whether the military really was an attractive career for today’s cyber skilled individuals, Hernandez noted that culture, and attracting the right workforce wasn’t the problem – the military is filled with individuals with cyber skills and interest. The issue is a broader one involving the study of science, technology, engineering and math for all American students.

“STEM for the nation really needs to increase, and we can’t be competing against each other to recruit talent because this is a national challenge,” he said. “Our ability to do that at younger and younger ages will be even more important as we have an increasing need to outthink and outmaneuver our adversaries.”

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Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.